17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
July 25, 2021
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.








O God, protector of those who hope in you,
without whom nothing has firm foundation, nothing is holy,
bestow in abundance your mercy upon us
and grant that, with you as our ruler and guide,
we may use the good things that pass
in such a way as to hold fast even now
to those that ever endure.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading 2 Kgs. 4:42-44

A man came from Baal-shalishah bringing to Elisha, the man of God, twenty barley loaves made from the firstfruits, and fresh grain in the ear.  Elisha said, "Give it to the people to eat."  But his servant objected, "How can I set this before a hundred people?" Elisha insisted, "Give it to the people to eat."  "For thus says the LORD, 'They shall eat and there shall be some left over.'"  And when they had eaten, there was some left over, as the LORD had said.

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:10-11,15-16,17-18

R. The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.

Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might.

The eyes of all look hopefully to you,
and you give them their food in due season;
you open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.

Second Reading Eph 4:1-6

Brothers and sisters: I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Alleluia Lk. 7:16

Gospel Jn 6:1-15

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.  Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples.
The Jewish feast of Passover was near.  When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, "Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?"  He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "Two hundred days' wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little."  One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?" Jesus said, "Have the people recline."  Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.  Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted.  When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, "Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted."  So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments  from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.  When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, "This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world."  Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

Reflection Questions

  1. What challenges do you face for living in a manner worthy of your call?
  2. How might you feel your resources are inadequate to meet the Lord’s demands?
  3. Have you ever experienced an unexpected multiplication of those resources?

Catena Nova

“Lord Jesus, how well I know You have no wish to allow these people here with me, to remain hungry but to feed them, with the food You distribute, and so, strengthened with Your food, they will have no fear of collapsing from hunger. I know, too, that You have no wish to send us away hungry, either… As You have said – You do not want them to collapse on the way, meaning to collapse in the byways of this life, before reaching the end of the road, before coming to the Father and understanding that You come from the Father.” … And so Christ shares out the foodstuffs and, there is no question, He wants to give it to all. He withholds it from no-one, for He provides for everyone. Nevertheless, when He breaks the loaves and gives them to the disciples, unless you hold out your hands to receive your portion, you will collapse along the way…This bread that Jesus breaks, is the mystery of the Word of God, it increases as it is distributed. With only a few words Jesus has provided abundant nourishment for all peoples. He has given us His words as bread and, while we are tasting them, they increase in our mouths… Even as the crowds are eating, the pieces increase and become more numerous to such an extent that, in the end, the leftovers are even more plentiful than the loaves that were shared (St. Ambrose of Milan).

Let us take note of the disciples’ trusting abandonment to God’s providence in life’s greatest necessities and their disdain for a life of luxury – there were twelve of them and they only had five loaves and two fish. They were not bothered by bodily things but dedicated all their zeal to the things of the soul. Moreover, they did not keep these provisions for themselves, they handed them over to the Saviour at once when He asked them for them. Let us learn from this example, to share what we have, with those in need, even if we only have a little. When Jesus asks them to bring the five loaves, they don’t say: “What will there be for us later on? Where will we find what is necessary for our own needs?” They obey promptly …Taking the loaves, then, the Lord broke them and entrusted the honour of distributing them to the disciples. He did not just want to honour them by this holy service but desired them to take part in the miracle, so as to be wholly convinced witnesses to it and, not forget what had taken place under their own eyes …. It is through them, that He made the people sit down and, that He distributed the bread, so that each one of them, might bear witness to the miracle accomplished at their hands …Everything in this event – the desert place, the bare ground, the small supply of bread and fish, the distribution of these same things to everyone without distinction, each one of them having the same as their neighbour – all this teaches us humility, frugality and fraternal charity. To love one another equally, to place everything in common amongst those who are serving the same God – this is what our Saviour is teaching us here (St John Chrysostom).

The miracles wrought by our Lord Jesus Christ are truly divine works, which lead the human mind through visible things to a perception of the Godhead. God is not the kind of being that can be seen with the eyes, and small account is taken of the miracles by which he rules the entire universe and governs all creation because they recur so regularly. Scarcely anyone bothers to consider God’s marvelous, his amazing artistry in every tiny seed. The Lord is a prophet, and the Lord is the Word of God, and without the Word of God no prophet can prophesy. And so certain works are excluded from the ordinary course of nature, works which God in his mercy has reserved for himself, so as to perform them at appropriate times. People who hold cheap what they see every day are dumbfounded at the sight of extraordinary works even though they are no more wonderful than the others. Governing the entire universe is a greater miracle than feeding five thousand people with five loaves of bread, yet no one marvels at it. People marvel at the feeding of the five thousand not because this miracle is greater, but because it is out of the ordinary. Who is even now providing nourishment for the whole world if not the God who creates a field of wheat from a few seeds? Christ did what God does. Just as God multiplies a few seeds into a whole field of wheat, so Christ multiplied the five loaves in his hands. For there was power in the hands of Christ. Those five loaves were like seeds, not because they were cast on the earth but because they were multiplied by the one who made the earth. This miracle was presented to our senses in order to stimulate our minds; it was put before our eyes in order to engage our understanding, and so make us marvel at the God we do not see because of his works which we do see. For then, when we have been raised to the level of faith and purified by faith, we shall long to behold, though not with our eyes, the invisible God whom we recognize through what is visible. This miracle was performed for the multitude to see; it was recorded for us to hear. Faith does for us what sight did for them (St. Augustine of Hippo).

The disciples say that they have only five loaves and two fish. The five loaves signified that they were still subject to the five books of the Law and the two fish that they were fed by the teachings of the prophets and John the Baptist… This was what the apostles had to offer to begin with since this was the point they were at and it was from this point, that the preaching of the Gospel began… Our Lord took the loaves and the fish.   He raised his eyes to heaven, said the blessing and broke them. He gave thanks to the Father because the Good News was being changed into food after centuries of the Law and the prophets…The loaves were then given to the apostles, it was at their hands, that the gifts of divine grace were to be handed out. Then the people were fed with the five loaves and two fish and, when those who were invited were satisfied, the leftovers of bread and fish were so plentiful that twelve baskets were filled with them. What this means is that the crowd was filled with God’s word coming from the teaching of the Law and the prophets. But it is an abundance of divine power, kept aside for the gentiles, that overflows after the provision of the food that lasts forever (St. Hilary of Poitiers).

In the twinkling of an eye the Lord multiplied a little bread. What human beings do in ten months of work, His ten fingers do in an instant … Nevertheless, He didn’t measure this miracle by its power but, according to the hunger of those who were there. If the miracle had been measured by its power, it would be impossible to evaluate it; measured according to the hunger of those thousands of people, the miracle went beyond the twelve baskets. Among artisans, their power is inferior to the customers’ desire; they cannot do everything that is asked of them. Contrary to them, what God accomplishes goes beyond all desire … When they had been satiated, like the Israelites in past times through the prayer of Moses, they cried out: “This is undoubtedly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” They were referring to the words of Moses: “A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you.” Not just any prophet, but “a prophet like me” (Dt 18:15), Who will satiate you with bread in the desert. Like me, He walked on the sea, He appeared in the luminous cloud (Mt 17:5), He freed His people. He handed Mary over to John just like Moses handed over his flock to Joshua …But the bread of Moses was not perfect, it was only given to the Israelites. Because He wanted to show, that His gift is superior to that of Moses and the call to the nations still more perfect, our Lord said: “If anyone eats this bread he shall live forever,” for the bread from God “has come down from heaven” and is given to the whole world (Jn 6:51) (St. Ephrem the Syrian).

This is no bit of magic on Jesus’ part – to accomplish it He looks toward heaven, toward His Father, with both petition and thanksgiving (eucharistia):  “Father, I thank you for hearing me.” (Jn 11:42)   His lavish giving away of Himself in the loaves, will be a sign of the way the Father’s love utterly lavishes His Son on the world. Then He blesses the bread, for the Father has left everything to the Son, including the bestowal of heaven’s blessing. He breaks it, which points both to His own brokenness in the Passion and to the way His gifts will be limitlessly multiplied by the work of the Holy Spirit in every Eucharistic celebration. Thus, through this visible image, we realise that truine Love itself, becomes present in the Eucharistic self-giving of Jesus (Hans Urs von Balthasar).

Before the suffering, loneliness, poverty  and difficulties of so many people, what can we ourselves do? Complaining doesn’t resolve anything but we can offer the little that we have, like the lad in the Gospel. We surely have a few hours of time, certain talents, some skills…. Who among us doesn’t have “five loaves and two fish” of his own? We all have them!  If we are willing to place them in the Lord’s hands,  they will be enough to bring about a little more love, peace, justice and especially joy in the world (Pope Francis).


Hunger Games

            Every three years, during “Cycle B” of the triennial lectionary, as if out of the blue, the Sunday gospels – normally taken from Mark – suddenly launch into the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John.  They will continue for five weeks interrupted this year by the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary which falls on a Sunday.  Now this chapter of John contains the Discourse on the Bread of Life and hence affords an opportunity for a series of homilies on the Eucharist.  And wouldn’t you know it?  On Friday Pope Francis dropped a liturgical bombshell, rumored for some time, that restricts the permissions given by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI to celebrate the liturgy according to the rite current before the Second Vatican Council, the so-called Tridentine Mass.   

            This development takes place on the heels of another much-in-the-news controversy surrounding the Eucharist taken up at the recent meeting of the American bishops over the question of what might constitute sufficient reason for a Catholic to be denied Holy Communion – in particular, for public advocacy of policies that conflict in a serious manner with Catholic moral teaching.  Of course, the intended targets are Catholic politicians like President Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi who support their party’s position on the availability of legal abortions.  All of this under the umbrella of what has come to be called “Eucharistic coherence.”

            While I would have preferred a normal series of sermons on the Eucharistic liturgy, it seems homilists this time around would be remiss if they failed to tackle these highly divisive issues in as even-handed a way as possible – with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love.  If for no other reason than we are speaking, after all, about the Sacrament of Christian unity where, more than anywhere else, we should be striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace [in] one body and one Spirit.  For, lest we forget, there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (II).

            And there is another reason to approach these issues with such a spirit.  The Public Religion Research Institute reported last week on the “American Religious Landscape” whose findings corroborate the trends of religious unaffiliation in this country that accounts for 23% of all adults and, as a sign of things to come for the church,  38% of Americans between the ages of 18-29 (cf. https://www.prri.org/research/2020-census-of-american-religion/).  

            If Jesus was right that unity among his followers was so “the world might believe” (Jn. 17:21) we had better move quickly to reverse the impression in the minds of too many people that we are little more than warring tribalists, whether within the Catholic Church, regrettably, between the myriad denominations of the Christian world.  (And I am leaving aside other factors affecting church affiliation -- scandals, the pandemic, the aging and declining number of priests, and the steady disappearance of once-intact parish communities).

            Unity was much on the mind of Pope Francis when issuing the new restrictions on the former liturgy.  In the letter accompanying the new directives, he wrote how, in his view, the simultaneous existence of two forms of the Roman rite was “intended to recover the unity of an ecclesial body with diverse liturgical sensibilities, [but] was exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division.”

            Unity, of course, is brought about by more than a faithful execution of liturgical prescriptions, whatever their form.  There is something one might call “existential unity” – a felt sense that one is a member of worshipping body where real, and not merely abstract, relationships exist among the gathered congregation such that the Eucharistic liturgy strengthens and expresses its cohesion.  

            In my experience, this is often lacking in our assemblies due to the large number of people in attendance (however much that may be diminishing) where people can come and go in complete anonymity if they choose no matter how correctly the rubrics were followed.  And to be honest, it seems to me that the former rite contributed to a Eucharistic individualism.  Pope Francis seems to have this problem in mind when, in the aforementioned letter, he quoted the Second Vatican Council saying, “Without denying the dignity and grandeur of this [preconciliar] Rite, the Bishops gathered in ecumenical council asked that it be reformed; their intention was that ‘the faithful would not assist as strangers and silent spectators in the mystery of faith, but, with a full understanding of the rites and prayers, would participate in the sacred action consciously, piously, and actively’”.

            Pope John Paul II, who lifted some of the restrictions on the former Mass, once told the bishops of Ontario, Canada that we need “a fresh and more profound experience of community in Christ, which is the only effective and enduring response to a culture of rootlessness, anonymity and inequality. Where this experience is weak, we may expect more of the faithful to lose interest in religion or to drift into the sects and pseudo-religious groups which feed off alienation and which flourish among Christians who are disenchanted with the Church for one reason or another. We can no longer expect people to come to our communities spontaneously….The anonymity of the city cannot be allowed to enter our Eucharistic communities. New ways and structures must be found to build bridges between people, so that there really is that experience of mutual acceptance and closeness which Christian fellowship requires” (May 4, 1999).       

            So as we hear from the sixth chapter of John’s gospel over the next few weeks, I would like to continue reflecting on the Eucharist and these weighty issues in the hope we all might live in a manner worthy of the call [we] have received (II).  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.



Intercessions (Peter Scagnelli; Prayers for Sundays and Seasons)

Let us turn in prayer to God who is near to those who call and whose bounty feeds all.

That the church may be an instrument by which the bread of life is broken for those who hunger.

That all who are united by sharing one Lord, one faith, one baptism may also be gathered and fed by Jesus with the one bread of life.

That people of differing cultures may recognize our common humanity and live a life worthy of the children of one God and Father.

That the more prosperous nations may work generously and in peace for a just allocation of the food of the earth.

That those who hunger in body or spirit for life’s necessities may be fed by the hand of Jesus and by the ministry of his disciples.

That those in prison and all who minister to them in Christ’s love may experience the healing that flows from the one hope of our calling.

That those who minister the bread of life to the sick and homebound may be for them a living sign of Christ’s concern and of our care.

That we may support those who prepare young people for the Eucharist by the fervor of our worship and the fidelity of our witness.

That this community, nourished at the one table of the Lord, may maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

That we who partake of the one bread may lead a life worthy of our calling, patiently bearing with one another in love.

That those who were nourished in this life by the bread Jesus gives may celebrate forever the paschal festival of the kingdom.

 O God, you open wide your hand, giving us food in due season.  Out of your never-failing abundance,     satisfy the hungers of body and soul and lead all peoples of the earth to the feast of the world to come. We make our prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen (ICEL; 1998).



After the people had seen the sign that Jesus did, they said: “This is truly the prophet who is to come into the world.”

Lord’s Prayer

Let us ask for our daily bread as Jesus taught....

Spiritual Communion

Lord Jesus, as you fed the hungry crowds in the desert, come now to feed our famished hearts, though we are unable to be nourished today by the Bread of life.  Do not allow us to be discouraged by those things which keep us from your Table, but endow us with all that is  necessary, whether great or small, so that we can once more eat and drink the Eucharist with our brothers and sisters in your one Body.

Thanksgiving (Charles Wood)


Oculi omnium in te sperant Domine:

et tu das escam illorum in tempore opportuno.

Gloria tibi, Domine.  Amen.

The eyes of all hope in Thee, O Lord;

and Thou givest them meat in due season.

Glory be to Thee, O Lord. Amen. (Psalm 145:1)

Closing Hymn