17th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B – Jn 6, 1-5

“Impressed by the signs, a large crowd followed him.”  John’s Gospel overflows with symbols, images and signs that whisper, hint, or glimpse at a reality that is so real we cannot always understand, these signs are in order to deepen our awareness and widen our experiences.

If anybody has visited the Holy Land and managed to get through airport security or even watched any biblical tv movies.  You will be able use your imagination and place yourself at the Sea of Galilee.  The location was a lonely, isolated spot, on a high grassy bank overlooking the Lake.

Today’s miracle story has characteristics to other miracles in John’s Gospel, like the Wedding at Cana.  It shows the unlimited divine abundance of God’s power.  At the wedding feast Jesus did not change one, but six stone water jars into wine, which was more than enough, and it was the best wine the people had tasted.  In today’s gospel five loaves and two fish where a little boy sacrificed his lunch were shared abundantly between 5000 men, which is not even counting all the many women and children.  They were completely satisfied, and all had their fill. 

This miracle prefigures the mystery of the Blessed Eucharist.  It is only in John’s Gospel that Jesus directly feeds the crowds.  In the other Gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke it is the disciples who feeds the crowds.  This shows in John’s Gospel, it is Jesus who is the ultimate source of the bread of life, it is Jesus who gives nourishment to the people who are not just physically hungry, but also spiritually hungry as well.

“Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready.”  These words must sound familiar, linking them to the last supper, which we will also hear in our Eucharistic prayers during mass.  “For on the night he was betrayed he himself took bread, and giving you thanks, he said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to his disciples.”

In the Mass shortly you see these keys words take centre stage.  The Deacon (me) gives – handing over the bread and wine to the priest.  The priest who at this point is in the ‘Person of Christ’ (Persona Christi) takes the bread, gives thanks to God the Father for these gifts, and through the miracle of God, when Heaven and Earth touch, it brings us all back in time and place to the memorial of the one and only sacrifice on Calvary, Jesus changing the gifts of Bread and Wine into the gift of himself in the form of His Body and Blood, who then directly distributes to this faithful people.

You may have seen placed on the altar a square piece of cloth which we call a corporal.  Its purpose is to catch and collect any fragments of the Eucharist that has fallen away.  This corporal is folded carefully at the end of mass making sure no fragments are lost.  We get a sense of the importance in the scriptures about carefully picking up the scraps of the loaves and fish in the Gospel and they were enough to fill 12 baskets full, making sure nothing gets wasted.  We also read in the book of Exodus when God gives the Israelites manna from Heaven, and they were instructed only to take enough for that day, and not to keep any left over, as the Lord will provide for their needs. 

Every day we see in some way the miracle of God’s divine providence, we need to be thankful for all the many blessings and benefits that we have received, which sometimes we take for granted. 

Especially through these recent months of isolation and Covid restrictions.  We have all felt the pain and hunger for our daily sacraments when the Churches were closed.  The loss was a dreadful time in Christianity, and we are only slowly getting back to normal with the lifting of restrictions.

May we come to realise how grateful we are to receive the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ today in Holy Communion, we especially keep in our prayers the people who are watching online and still isolating, who are desperately crying out to receive the sacraments of the Church at this time. 

We pray for the end of this pandemic, allowing all God’s faithful to safely return once again to church, in order to celebrate the sacred mysteries of the Lord’s Body and Blood, together as one Church, and One Body in Christ, as we religiously follow Jesus due to all the many signs and wonders He has done.

15th Sunday in Ordinary time with Sea Sunday

Jesus instructed them to take nothing for the journey.  I do not know about you, but that sends shivers down my spine. ‘To take nothing for the journey.’  I am here in Kendal for two months and I brought down a full car load of stuff.  Multiple suitcases and hand luggage.  Everything I need for an English summer placement.  Five woolly jumpers, a thick coat and several jackets, most of them I have not touched yet since arriving.  I will never learn, everywhere I go, I always seem to take double the amount that I actually need.  So I can imagine the apostles were slightly apprehensive when they could only take a staff in hand. 

So why was poverty so important to their mission?  We can only guess the answer and say that the apostles had to learn not to rely on their own resources, but only on God’s abundant providence.  Since they were doing God’s work, God would take care of their daily needs.  This simplicity of life would help them stay free of distractions and focus wholly on their mission, which was to preach the gospel message out of love and not for the desire of gain.  When the time for food and shelter was needed they would call for hospitality in those to whom they ministered to. 

In the Jewish tradition hospitality was common for travellers to be welcomed without any warning into homes along their way, since not many villages would have an inn to stay at.  So, Jesus’ instruction to stay in one place and not to move from house to house would also stop any rivalry among other villagers wishing to host them, making sure they did not get distracted from looking for upgraded accommodation.

This weekend is Sea Sunday and we are supporting the charity called Stella Maris or the former name is the Apostleship of the Sea, a Catholic charity that helps and support seafarers when they are in foreign ports.  The seafarers often do not speak the local language making things difficult, especially when they require help and support to gain access to the local shops, internet access, taking them to Church for Mass or Confession.  The chaplains and volunteers of Stella Maris listen to their needs and help to provide it.  These people are answering Jesus’ call to give hospitality to the stranger.

Seafarers work long shifts, and many have not been home for ages, they are far away from family and friends, working in difficult hazardous conditions with varying harsh weather conditions fighting against them.  So, please do keep them in your prayers.

I also believe it is tradition in this parish to link the homily to a movie.  So, I have chosen Titanic.  The RMS Titanic sank on April 15th in 1912 ending its maiden voyage across the Atlantic sea, 1,503 people lost their lives in the icy waters.  Onboard the Titanic was a priest Fr Thomas Byles who was only 42 years old.  He is known for his heroic actions during the sinking. 

When Fr Thomas was in his 10th year into his Priesthood, his brother asked him to celebrate their wedding in New York, so Fr Thomas boarded the Titanic as a second class passenger.  While onboard he would celebrate Mass for the 2nd and 3rd class passengers, and his last sermon was explaining that the prayers and sacraments of the Church were our spiritual lifeboats, when we are in danger from the spiritual shipwreck of temptation. 

According to eyewitnesses, Fr Thomas was out on deck praying his breviary shortly before midnight, when the ship hit an iceberg.  When the captain ordered the launching of the lifeboats, Fr Thomas made his way to help people navigate the stairwells to the upper deck, but many found themselves trapped behind locked iron gates.  Fr Thomas calmly led the third-class passengers to where the lifeboats were located.  He was asked to enter into one of the lifeboats but Fr Thomas refused.  When the ship was going down Fr Thomas was with the people from all different religions, and they were saying the rosary together and Fr Thomas was praying for the repose of the souls of those about to perish.  To many he administered the last rites and gave absolution from their sins.  Fr Thomas was an extraordinary man who gave his life for others, and his actions were praised by Pope Pius X.

May we keep the work of Sea chaplains in our daily prayers, and the work of Stella Maris volunteers who continually keep seafarers safe and well provided for, through generous donations throughout the world. 

And with your help today in prayers and donations, we can confidently say we are answering Jesus’ call to give hospitality to the stranger.

I would like to finish by saying the words from the 1st verse of a well know hymn:

Eternal Father, strong to save,

Whose arm does bind the restless wave,

Who bids the mighty ocean deep,

Its own appointed limits keep;

O hear us when we cry to Thee

For those in peril on the sea.

May the souls who have been lost at Sea and of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.