17th Sunday of Ordinary Time

In our first reading today, Elisha, the man of God, feeds 100 people with twenty  barley loaves.  At the time of 2nd Kings, around 600 BC, this was a BIG deal.  Even today, it would be a big deal if someone were able to feed 100 people with such a small amount of bread.  Of course we don’t know how big the loaves were.  They could have been very big.  Even so, it was quite an accomplishment.

 

But we know of an even bigger deal.  Jesus fed 5,000 people with just FIVE barley loaves and a couple of fish.  Now, normally, you’d expect me to tell you what a great miracle this was, and about how it’s a precursor to the Eucharist, where Jesus feeds millions of people every day with His own Body and Blood.  But, I’m not going to talk about that.

 

The real heroes in these two stories were the man from Baal-shalishah and the young boy in the Gospel.  We don’t know either of their names, but without them neither miracle would have been possible.  It was their generosity, multiplied by God many times over, that made it possible for Elisha, and for Jesus, to feed so many.

 

I think there’s a reason why neither person is named in scripture and it’s because both of them represent you and me.  Each of us is called to be generous with our time, talent, and treasure which God uses to accomplish so much more than we could do by ourselves.

 

In just a few minutes, Father will change ordinary bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.  Make no mistake—it IS a miracle.  The same miracle is happening in Catholic churches all over the world.  It’s something that only priests and bishops can do.  But where do the bread and wine come from?  They will be brought to the altar by members of the congregation.  You begin the process, just like the two anonymous men in the readings today began those miracles.

 

Where does the congregation get the bread and wine?  We buy it with the money you contribute each week.  Without you, there could be no miracle.  The Eucharist, (the word means thanksgiving in Greek) is a public celebration made possible by the sacrament of Holy Orders received by the priest and by your participation in providing the bread and wine.

 

Our two stories today have another thing in common.  In the reading from 2nd Kings a servant objects “How can I set this before a hundred people?”  In the Gospel story, Peter, speaking of the loaves and fish asks “what good are these for so many?”  Don’t we all have these same doubts when we’re asked to contribute our own gifts?

 

Here’s the thing.  A communion wafer costs about 2 cents.  Sitting there in the box, that’s about what they’re worth.  If we buy them for 2 cents, what do they cost to make?  Less than a penny?  But when Father says the Eucharistic Prayer, a few cents worth of wheat becomes the Body of Christ.  Not a symbol.  Not a representation.  The actual Body of Christ.  How do we know?  Because He said so.  When we leave this church today, those of us who receive the Eucharist will have His actual Body and Blood running through our veins.  Like the Master Card commercial says:

“Wheat and wine—a few cents.  Father’s time and talent—a few dollars.  Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ—PRICELESS.”  And it all begins with your contributions to the church and your presentation  of the gifts to Father at the altar.

 

Next weekend there will be a second collection for our mission in Bolivia.  Saint Louis was actually the first diocese in the United States to send missionaries to Latin America.  The missions were started 56 years ago by Cardinal Joseph Ritter.  Today a four priests and one bishop from Saint Louis serve nearly 100,000 parishioners.  The Catholics in the area are able to attend mass just a few times a year.  But they do get to attend mass, something that would be impossible without your generous support.  Imagine what it must be like to receive the sacraments so infrequently before you ask “what good is my small contribution to help so many?”  If the ½ million Catholics in Saint Louis would send just ten dollars, that would be $5 million, more than enough to operate the missions for a year.

 

I know it seems like we’re always asking you for something, some of your time, talent, and treasure.  But, here are two things to think about.

  1. Everything we have is a gift from God.  Anything we give Him is just returning a small part of what He’s given us.  And
  2. If God could feed hundreds of people in the first reading and thousands in the Gospel, both from small contributions from ordinary people, what can He do with what WE give Him?
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