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Life-Giving Gift

  • August 1, 2022 (readings)
  • Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
  • Jennifer Ristine
  • Matthew 14:13-21

    When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to Heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

    Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, grant me eyes to see as you see and a heart that loves as you love.

    Encountering Christ:

    1. Life or Death: In today’s first reading, we hear Jeremiah calling out the prophet Hananiah. The words of Jeremiah convicted Hananiah of false and rebellious teaching. Jeremiah prophesied that within a year, Hananiah would be dead. It was a strong and harsh warning and a testimony to the power of God’s word. God’s word convicts us in the truth. It leads us to recognize a false spirit from a good spirit. How do we use the Gospel as criteria for measuring our acceptance or rejection of the spirits of the world? Do we recognize the voices that lead to life and those that lead to death?

    2. The Giver of Life: In the Gospel, Jesus came from a place of prayer to encounter a hungry crowd. They were hungry for food after a long journey, but more essentially, hungry for meaning, purpose, and nourishment for their soul. Their expectations were high. They wanted to receive from the one whom they had heard preach like no one they had heard before and who healed what no one else could heal. He saw their state, beyond their physical state, to the state of their heart and soul. Moved to the core, he took pity on them. Far from the practical solution offered by his disciples, he did not dismiss them. He ordered his disciples to give them something to eat. He instructed them to organize the group. He prepared small communities to be ministered to by his chosen disciples. He would nourish life with their help. 

    3. Jesus’ Vision: Look at the contrasting visions between the disciples’ first reactions and Jesus’ way of approaching those in need. He taught his Apostles how to minister. The first step was to present their flock to the Lord. The second step was to be obedient to him as to how to feed them. But there was resistance, a lack of seeing through Christ’s eyes that paralyzed the disciples’ initiative. Is this true in our lives? We see impossibility; Jesus sees possibility. We see complexity; Jesus sees simplicity. We see demand; Jesus sees the necessity. We see burden; Jesus sees a life-giving opportunity. The disciples just obeyed, moved within the circumstances before them, and distributed to others what had already been received and blessed by the Lord, giver of life-giving gifts. 

    Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, you are the Word of God made flesh, come to give us life. Help us to listen and be obedient to your word as it is given to us in Scripture, from the shepherds of the Church, and from a keen listening to your promptings in prayer. May I live according to your vision with faith and self-giving. 

    Resolution: Lord, today, by your grace, grant that I may see the needs of others and give to them from the abundance of what I have received from you (love, goodness, mercy, etc.).

    For Further Reflection: Learn from the masters about the discernment of spirits


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