July 25, 2021 ~ 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My Dear Friends in Christ,

This year we have been hearing from St. Mark’s Gospel, which is considerably shorter than the other Gospels. Every three years, for five consecutive weeks, we hear from the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel – the Bread of Life Discourses, highlighting the central mystery of the Catholic Faith, the Holy Eucharist.

The sixth chapter opens with the scene of the multiplication of the loaves. The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves appears in all four Gospels. Jesus’ actions are on a par with those of the Last Supper. He “took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated”, the Gospel says (Jn 6:11). The insistence on the topic of “bread”, which is distributed, and on thanksgiving (eucharistesas), recall the Eucharist, Christ’s sacrifice for the world’s salvation.

St. John notes that the Passover is already at hand. His gaze is turned to the Cross, the gift of love, and to the Eucharist, the perpetuation of this gift: Christ makes himself the Bread of Life. St. Augustine comments: “Who is the Bread of heaven, but Christ? But in order that man might eat Angels’ Bread, the Lord of Angels was made Man. For if he had not been made Man, we should not have his Flesh; if we had not his Flesh, we should not eat the Bread of the Altar.

The Eucharist is not a symbolic presence; it is His Real and Substantial Presence, His Flesh for the Life of the World. The Eucharist is the human being’s ongoing encounter with God in which the Lord makes Himself our food and gives Himself to transform us into Him. We become more like Him Whom we receive. Pope Benedict XVI once wrote: “Indeed, it is not the Eucharistic food that is changed into us, but rather we who are mysteriously transformed by it Christ nourishes us by uniting us to Himself; “He draws us into Himself”.”

A young boy’s presence is also mentioned in the scene. Although the Apostles were baffled as to how they were to feed the crowds, the shared the little he had brought with him: five loaves and two fish. The miracle was not worked from nothing, but from a first modest sharing of what he had. Jesus does not ask us for what we do not have. Rather, He makes us see that if each person offers the little, God is capable of multiplying this “little” – our small acts of love – so that all may share in the gift.

The crowd was impressed by the miracle. They perceive Jesus as the new Moses, who gives the new manna. However, the people stopped at the material element. They filled their bellies and sought to use Jesus’ power in a worldly way: “they were about to come and take him by force to make him king…” (Jn 6:15). Jesus is not an earthly king who exercises dominion but a king who serves, who stoops down to human beings not only to satisfy their physical hunger, but above all their deeper hunger, their spiritual hunger, their hunger for God, their hunger for Truth. Let us ask the Lord to help us rediscover the importance of feeding ourselves not only on bread but also on Truth and the Eucharist, taking part faithfully and with profound awareness in the Eucharist.

Next weekend, we will have our parish Patronal Feast. We will have two noteworthy celebrations on Saturday, the 31 st , but also celebrate the Feast on Sunday. On Saturday at 4:30  Mass, we will honor those couples celebrating their 50th and 60th wedding anniversaries. On Saturday at 7 PM, we will have an outdoor Mass with a Eucharistic procession, highlighting the importance of the Bread of Life. There will also be a Ministry Fair so that people can begin to explore how they can share their gifts with the whole parish. We will have Rocky Boiman with us to offer words of inspiration; firepits, food trucks, and more. After being apart for so long, we need to be together and to celebrate – even prior to the Festival!

Finally, this is the Amoris Laetita Year of the Family, and the Pope has designated this Sunday for honoring grandparents, as the liturgical feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, the parents of Mary and grandparents of Jesus falls on Monday. There will be a special blessing for all grandparents at the Masses this weekend and a plenary indulgence is granted under the usual conditions. I want to thank grandparents for their faithful witness to the fundamental values of life and faith. As many parents no longer practice the Faith or bring their children to church, more and more grandparents play a vital role in handing on the Faith and bringing their children to church. Moments of quiet prayer, including the rosary and other devotions, give a powerful witness to young people. Growing up, I always gazed with wonder at statues of St. Anne teaching the Blessed Virgin the Psalms. In turn, I would imagine Jesus sitting on His grandmother’s knee  earning some prayers or being carried on the shoulders of St. Joachim. To all grandparents, I express my  profound gratitude. To all grandchildren, remember this Sunday to say to your grandparents, “Thank you! I love you!” Nothing could bring them more joy!           -Fr. Fernandes

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