Ninth Sunday after Pentecost: Week 12 in Ordinary Time

& archive, Year B.

Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you,
And to learn trust, faith.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear your voice in the midst of trouble.
Help me to follow you in all of life,
To walk in the joy and freedom of the resurrection,
Indwelt and led  by your Pentecost Spirit.

Amen

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost: Week 12 in Ordinary Time

We are invited into John’s gospel this week, and we join Jesus and the disciples on their way to Galilee from Jerusalem as Jewish leaders there mount persecution against Jesus with intent to kill him (see John 5:16 ff). Once in Capernaum, Jesus directs his followers to cross the Sea of Galilee to the far shore, a place of prayer and retreat on one of the mountains there.  In the quiet and solitude they climb the mountain and sit down together to rest in this place apart.

But  they soon discovered that they were not alone. A large crowd which keep following Jesus, now finds its way around the shore of the lake to where they are.  It is Jesus who looks up and sees the large crowd coming towards him, and Jesus who responds with welcome and hospitality to this multitude of long-distance and hungry walkers. Turning to Philip he asks, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” Philip remembers sitting there, scanning the crowd. His first thought was to figure how much it would cost to feed about thousand  people. After a quick count he replies, “Six months’ wages of a day laborer wouldn’t buy enough bread for each person to even have a little.” All he could think of was the money needed, and he knew they didn’t have enough in their common purse to even think of buying food. Jesus then turns to the other disciples along with Philip and asks, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” After a time of looking, Andrew returns–bringing a boy with him. “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish,” he reports.  However as he looks again at the thousands of people gathered there and the meager amount of food available, like the servant of Elisha in 2 Kings 4:43, his voice trails off into hopelessness: “But what are they among so many?”

It is at times like these – when we do not have what we need to respond in obedience to God’s call to minister to others – that we need to notice John’s comment: “Jesus . . . knew what he was going to do.” (John 6:6) Philip thinks numbers and budget. Andrew searches among the crowd to see what is available. Both come up short. However, the gift of the boy’s lunch – although small – is enough in the hands of Jesus. Here we are called to receive what is given us, however small, and to release it into the hands of Jesus, who takes what is given, gives thanks, and then offers what is blessed to be shared by all. He transforms the ordinary and the little into a feast for all. Here we learn that Jesus does have way through the impossible, even a way through our own unbelief and limitations. We are called to learn the ways of Jesus, to co-labor with him, for he knows what he is about to do.

The people are aware of the miracle they had just seen, and eaten! and they begin to move toward Jesus, wanting to force him to become king. But Jesus knows the reasons for their surge of desire. In their excitement over the healings, the miraculous provision of food, and Jesus’ teaching, the crowd is in a mood to force Jesus’ hand, and begin a revolution against the Roman government by making him king. The people do not understand the nature or the ways of the kingdom of God, nor do our gospel companions.  Jesus had faced into the temptation to win the world by adopting its ways, and instead of being drawn into the demands of the crowd, he tells his followers to start back across the lake while he dismisses the people. Then he goes up on the mountain to pray. As evening falls Jesus is on the mountain in communion with Abba.

We, meanwhile, are with the disciples. It has been a long, tiring day, and to add to our weariness the sea becomes rough as a strong wind blows against us. We strain at the oars for hours into the night and make little progress. But we do have time to think. Following Jesus seems to make little sense from our perspective. First he changes plans about needing to find a place to rest, then he expects us to feed the multitude with next to nothing, and finally refuses to welcome the accolade and desire of the crowd that he should become king. What kind of man is this? Is this really the Messiah, the one we believe will become king, seated on David’s throne, and who will restore the nation of Israel by releasing it from Roman domination? As dawn breaks we realize that we have only rowed about three or four miles. We are bone weary. But suddenly our fatigue lurches into terror as we catch sight of a figure walking on the water, not far from our boat. Is it a ghost? Terrified, we cry out. In return the strange figure speaks comfort to us. The voice is familiar: “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”  Terror changes to comfort as the disciples ask Jesus to get into the boat – and then we realize that we are arriving at the shore of our destination.

Reflection

Take some time now to look back over your own experience of ministry. Pay attention to those times when the ministry task you were–or are being–called to do seemed impossible.

What was your immediate response?

How did you bring the situation into your prayer?

In what way did God offer you help and guidance?

What was your response to God?

And what did you notice as you moved in simple faith and obedience in

response to the task?

Prayer before reading:

Lord Jesus Christ,
You come to us
In the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Holy Spirit,
Help me to be aware of how you come,
To be hospitable to your help,
And  to your leading in the way of Jesus.

Amen

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost: Week 12 in Ordinary Time

  • 7/23   Monday:  John 6:1-14
  • 7/24   Tuesday:  John 6:15-21
  • 7/25   Wednesday:  Psalm 145:10-18
  • 7/26   Thursday: 2 Kings 4:42-44
  • 7/27   Friday: Ephesians 3:14-21
  • 7/28   Saturday: John 6:1-14
  • 7/29   Sunday: John 6:15-21