When I looked at the readings for this weekend, I felt something providential. I will answer the question ‘why?’ in a few minutes. We will be reflecting on the Gospel of John chapter 6 for the next couple of weeks. This chapter is called the bread of life discourse, and it talks about the one food we need, the Eucharist. Now let me say why I felt providential when I read this passage. July 29th is my ordination anniversary. Priesthood and the Eucharist are instituted at the Last supper. It is providential that we are going to reflect on the Mass for the next couple of weeks: the very life of Jesus, and God’s continual gift that we need: Eucharist. As I celebrate my ordination anniversary, I feel like God prepared for me a mini retreat for the next couple of weeks to meditate on the Eucharist, the core of Priestly life. I take this opportunity to thank everyone who encouraged and challenged me through your prayers, presence, and support to grow in my priesthood.
Food is a very important part of our lives. We hear or talk about food every day. If we switch on the TV, on one side we hear the talk about poverty and feeding the poor, and on the other hand, we see shows about how to eat well, what is the healthiest food, and how to watch your weight and so on. Recently I was talking to couple of priests, and they asked me, do you find genuine Indian food around which you grew up? I replied, I don’t say genuine Indian food, but when there is nothing around, whatever you find is good.
We are going to look at the theme: “I am the Bread of Life.” Jesus said, "whoever comes to me will never hunger." In the first reading from the Book of Kings, we see the Prophet Elisha setting 20 barley loaves before 100 people. His servant was not sure about this, but the Prophet Elisha asked servant to do his part, and God is going to take care of it. They all eat and there is some left over. The Gospel draws a picture of Jesus feeding 5000 people. Jesus asked Philip, "Where are we going to buy the bread for these people to eat?" If someone asks you this, what will be your response? You probably thought to ask, "Are you kidding!" Philip answered him, "Two hundred days' wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little." Here Andrew comes into the scene. He said, "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?" Then he gave thanks, blessed it, and began breaking it into pieces to pass around to the people. When they had all had enough to eat, Jesus said, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." They gathered up twelve baskets full! A miracle take place. Like the Prophet Elisha, Jesus told his disciples do their part.
Jesus multiplied the loves and fish, not to just feed the hungry bellies, but to prepare his listeners for an even greater miracle: the giving of his own body and blood in the holy sacrifice of the Mass. The sharing of the broken bread, the Body and Blood, is a sign of a community that is expected to share and provide in abundance for the needs of its members. Five loves and two fish, a humble offering to Jesus, made a difference. We bring ourselves to the Eucharist as we are, Jesus blesses us with His Body and Blood, and sends us to break and share our life with one another. There, miracles take place. Our lives are not perfect, not sufficient, but when it is in hand, miracles take place. As we celebrate Pioneer Days, let us give ourselves and community into the hands of God, who can do miracles. Happy Pioneer Days!
Today we are celebrating at St. Anthony’s the Feast of St. Anthony and the conclusion of Totus Tuus. Who is St. Anthony of Padua? He was born in Lisbon, Portugal, in a wealthy family. He gave up all the comforts of the life and joined the Augustinians, later looking at the life of Franciscan Martyrs, he decided to join Franciscan order. Anthony was an excellent preacher and traveled to Morocco to spread God's truth, but became extremely sick and was returned to Portugal. The ship was blown off course and ended up in Sicily. It was said that he was a cook for a while and was attending an ordination during that period when no one was prepared to give a homily at the ordination, and Anthony accepted this task. His speech was astounding and since then his fame spread. Anthony emphasized the ‘Crucified Lord’ in his sermons. Once he wrote: “Christ who is your life is hanging before you, so that you look at the cross as in a mirror. There you will be able to know how mortal were your wounds that no medicine other than the Blood of the Son of God could heal… Nowhere other than looking at himself in the mirror of the cross can better understand how much he is worth.” St. Anthony was a shepherd who cared for his people.
The reading talks about shepherds. In the Old Testament Israel and the nations around it the kings were often called shepherds because they had a duty to look after their people. In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah thunders against Israel's careless leaders, because they have shown no concern for their flock. The prophet also foretells the rise of a good, new shepherd in the family line of David.
We see Jesus fulfilling this role as shepherd of the people in the Gospel. In the first part of the Gospel, Jesus is caring for his own disciples, and in the second part he took pity on the people since they were like sheep without a shepherd.
Sheep nibble themselves astray: they keep their heads down, just as we tend to keep our heads glued to our jobs – until we look up and realize we don’t know where we are. It would be a very good thing to stop and rest, as Jesus said. When we look at it rightly, there is only one Shepherd, and every one of us is the lost sheep.
The beautiful and famous Psalm we prayed today (Ps 23), “The Lord is my shepherd” was written many centuries before Jesus but when we pray this Psalm it is natural for us to think of Jesus: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” We see Jesus’ concern for his apostles, at the same time concern for people. He is our shepherd, and at the same time we are sent out as shepherds. In other words, in certain roles, we are the shepherd and other time we are the sheep without a shepherd.
The reading reminds us of two points: we have to find time to spend time with our shepherd and at the same time we are sent out like apostles, shepherds, to bring the “Good News” to others. Perhaps our commitment to following Jesus as his disciple leaves us feeling tired and overwhelmed. In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus affirm the importance of times of rest and renewal. Jesus wanted his disciples to come away and spend time alone with him. This is what we seek and find in our life of prayer and in our celebration of the Eucharist. This is the place we are fed and send out to continue our mission.
The readings reminds us of our Divine adoption as God's children and of our call to preach the Good News of Jesus. I read a story of a prison chaplain that challenges us. He went to talk with a man sentenced to die in the electric chair. He urged him to believe in Jesus Christ and be baptized; that forgiveness and eternity with God awaited him if only he would turn towards God. The prisoner said, "Do you really believe that?" "Of course I do," replied the chaplain. "Go on," scoffed the prisoner. "If I believed that I would crawl and hands and knees over broken glass to tell others, but I don't see you Christians making any big thing of it!" He had a point.
We have group of vibrant, faithful college-aged evangelizers, who can effectively impact our children, junior high, and high school youth. Haley Arndt, CJ Kallevig, Charles Luke and Robbie Simon are here to run the Totus Tuus. Totus Tuus means totally yours. Totus Tuus is a summer Catholic youth program dedicated to sharing the Gospel and promoting the Catholic faith. It is a fun learning program and a great opportunity for our children and youth to learn and develop a personal relationship with Jesus. Please encourage our children and youth to participate.
Please join us, your pastor and parish council members to welcome our new Parish Council Members:
I read a story on National Catholic Register, the amazing story of 12 Anglican nuns who embraced Catholic Faith. One Sister of the community described that moment as follows:
“This community has always meant everything to me… My call at the age of 20 was hugely strong: I was absolutely clear that I was meant to be here… [But] there are two points here. Firstly, the Holy Spirit has spoken to my heart at several moments in my life about union with the Catholic Church. Secondly, yet it was also the Holy Spirit who placed in me a strong sense of call to this particular community. These two aspects of my vocation have governed my choices at moments when it was possible to become a Catholic and I have not done so. But the Ordinariate basically opened a possibility I never imagined could be there for me as a Religious.”
The Gospel describes the typical pattern of Jesus’ ministry: teaching in the synagogue followed by acts of healing. In his hometown of Nazareth, the people were amazed by what they heard, but they also could not comprehend how someone they knew so well might move them so powerfully.
The reason I brought up the story of the twelve nuns is because we see and hear a story of conversion and coming to the faith. Those stories are amazing and we need them. But as a Catholic/Christian do we posses the same mentality of those people in Nazareth?: Do we read and listen with amazement but are unable to comprehend our own faith for it to have no effect in our lives? We are human, there will be dry moments in life. Even saints faced these challenges. But if we face this challenge regularly, it is dangerous.
Jesus' kinfolk in Nazareth might have known the carpenter, the son of Mary, but they did not know Jesus, the Son of God. Today we believe in Jesus, and take time to know him and celebrate faith, especially in Eucharist. We know the stories of our faith, but do we know really what he did for us?
Let us ask him to touch our lives, so we can come to know him personally, love him and proclaim.