Providence, Unity, Communion
A reflection on the Liturgical Readings of the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time
It is hard to believe in Divine Providence in a world gripped by poverty and inequality. But the prophetic action of Elisha is clear: the Lord provides for his people. The first reading already preempts what happens in the Gospel. The prophet worked out a miracle from the fresh food that was just offered. Defying the objection of the servant, what little food was offered met the needs of those who ate and even more. God provides for his people and He is true to His word. He works on what is offered, multiplies it and fills his people with plenty.
The Gospel reading from John mirrors this old testament episode. We hear of Jesus wishing to feed the crowd that followed him. John portrays Jesus as the great Prophet: going up the mountain – the abode of God, sitting down – the posture of a teacher, and asking rhetorical questions – he had the situation under control. John also makes use of Jesus as the Good Shepherd: Jesus is followed by his flock and He feeds them in a place where there are plenty of grass, where they reclined as if they were eating in a banquet.
All of these are all Eucharistic. These images, details, and events bear the similarity of the One Meal Jesus prepared for his disciples on the night before He died. He gathered them, fed them, and reclined together. Not only did they eat the customary dishes of the Passover but they partook of His own body and blood. God feeds His people not only to fill their needs but He overwhelms them with his generosity.
It is in this mentality that St. Paul wrote to the Christians of Ephesus. Taking from the Eucharistic Spirit that they celebrate every week, he reminds the Christians to live according to the faith: one body, one Spirit; one hope, one call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father. For as meals bring a family together, so does a God who prepares one meal gathers as a flock the people He had called and makes them one.
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