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Contemplating today's Gospel

Today's Gospel + homily (in 300 words)

Monday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

1st Reading (Jer 28:1-17): In the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, the prophet Hananiah, son of Azzur, from Gibeon, said to me in the house of the Lord in the presence of the priests and all the people: «Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two years I will restore to this place all the vessels of the temple of the Lord which Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, took away from this place to Babylon. And I will bring back to this place Jeconiah, son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the exiles of Judah who went to Babylon’, says the Lord, ‘for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon’».

The prophet Jeremiah answered the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people assembled in the house of the Lord, and said: «Amen! thus may the Lord do! May he fulfill the things you have prophesied by bringing the vessels of the house of the Lord and all the exiles back from Babylon to this place! But now, listen to what I am about to state in your hearing and the hearing of all the people. From of old, the prophets who were before you and me prophesied war, woe, and pestilence against many lands and mighty kingdoms. But the prophet who prophesies peace is recognized as truly sent by the Lord only when his prophetic prediction is fulfilled».

Thereupon the prophet Hananiah took the yoke from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah and broke it, and said in the presence of all the people: «Thus says the Lord: ‘Even so, within two years I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, from off the neck of all the nations’». At that, the prophet Jeremiah went away.

Some time after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: «Go tell Hananiah this: ‘Thus says the Lord: By breaking a wooden yoke, you forge an iron yoke! For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: A yoke of iron I will place on the necks of all these nations serving Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and they shall serve him; even the beasts of the field I give him’».

To the prophet Hananiah the prophet Jeremiah said: «Hear this, Hananiah! The Lord has not sent you, and you have raised false confidence in this people. For this, says the Lord, I will dispatch you from the face of the earth; this very year you shall die, because you have preached rebellion against the Lord». That same year, in the seventh month, Hananiah the prophet died.
Responsorial Psalm: 118
R/. Lord, teach me your statutes.
Remove from me the way of falsehood, and favor me with your law.

Take not the word of truth from my mouth, for in your ordinances is my hope.

Let those turn to me who fear you and acknowledge your decrees.

Let my heart be perfect in your statutes, that I be not put to shame.

Sinners wait to destroy me, but I pay heed to your decrees.

From your ordinances I turn not away, for you have instructed me.
Versicle before the Gospel (Jn 1:49b): Alleluia. Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel. Alleluia.
Gospel text (Mt 14:13-21): When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.

When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” He said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”

Then he said, “Bring them here to me,” and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over– twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.

“Looking up to heaven”

Fr. Xavier ROMERO i Galdeano (Cervera, Lleida, Spain)

Today, the Gospel touches our “mental pockets”... This is why, as in Jesus' time, the voice of the prudent ones can be heard weighing whether this is worth our while. When they saw it was getting late, the disciples, who did not know how to handle the crowd gathered around Jesus, found a reasonable option: “they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves” (Mt 14:15). Little did they expect their Lord and Master to break this sensible advice by telling them: “give them some food yourselves” (Mt 14:16).

A popular saying goes: “He who does not count on God when counting, does not know how to count.” And it is true, the disciples did not know —neither do we— how to count for they forgot, as we often forget, the most important part of the addition: God himself is always amongst us.

The disciples did their calculation right; they figured out the exact number of loaves and fishes, but how could they possibly divide them amongst such a huge crowd? This is why they cautiously said: “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here” (Mt 14:17). But they did not realize they also had Jesus—true God and true man— among them!

About all this, it would not do us any harm to remember what Saint Josemaria Escrivá said: “In your apostolic undertakings you are right — it's your duty — to consider what means the world can offer you (2+2=4), but don't forget — ever! — that, fortunately, your calculations must include another term: God+2+2...” Christian optimism is not based upon the absence of difficulties, of resistance and of personal errors, but upon God who says: “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20).

It would be good that both you and I, when facing our own difficulties, and prior to granting a death sentence to the boldness and optimism of the Christian spirit, we could rely upon God. If only we could say along with St. Francis that great prayer: “Where there is hatred, let us sow love”; that is, wherever my accounts do not square up, let me rely upon God.

Thoughts on Today's Gospel

  • “We may not be able to give much but we can always give the joy that springs from a heart that is in love with God.” (Saint Teresa of Calcutta)

  • “Those few loaves and fish, shared and blessed by God, were enough for everyone. And pay heed! It isn’t magic, it’s a “sign”: a sign that calls for faith in God, provident Father.” (Francis)

  • “Communion with the Body and Blood of Christ increases the communicant's union with the Lord, forgives his venial sins, and preserves him from grave sins. Since receiving this sacrament strengthens the bonds of charity between the communicant and Christ, it also reinforces the unity of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1,416)