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Bible Reflections View Comments

It's Easier Than You Might Think
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, June 2, 2013
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If you’ve ever watched a really good cook whip up a meal or a fancy dessert, you’ve likely been dazzled by the ease with which he or she seems to work. Television chefs have a staff of assistants to pull together and measure ingredients and the magic of the camera reduces the time it takes to make a meal. But even in real life, experienced cooks have a routine and even some shortcuts that simplify their tasks.

In today’s Gospel, the disciples ask Jesus to dismiss the crowds so that the gathered multitude can seek food and shelter in the surrounding countryside. His immediate response is, “You give them something to eat.” They are rather taken aback by this, as most of us would be. Their focus is on what they don’t have and can’t do. Jesus, on the other hand, looks at what they have and makes it enough.

There will always be a debate among Scripture scholars and homilists about whether the true miracle here was Jesus miraculously turning a little food into a great deal of food, enough for thousands, or (perhaps more difficult to believe!) whether the people in the crowd were persuaded by his word and example to share with one another the provisions that they had brought with them to this event. The latter theory is not meant to explain away a supernatural event. Rather, it’s an acknowledgment that however much we might value charity, we may find it hard to put into practice in our daily lives. We need to be reminded of the source of our blessings.

The disciples, I suspect, had a tendency to want to keep a tight hold on their easy and exclusive access to Jesus. That seems to be human nature. We’re not much different today.

Whether it’s our material possessions or our spiritual gifts, we can fall into a kind of grasping selfishness that goes against the example Jesus gave us.

From the first days after his election, Pope Francis continued a theme that had been prominent in his work in Buenos Aires. Again and again he reminded both the hierarchy and all Catholics that the reason the church exists is not for its own spiritual and material enrichment but as a way to bring Christ to the outskirts and the margins of society, to reach out to those who need to be fed, to bring the Good News of salvation to those who most need to hear it.

Our first reading on this Sunday comes to us from the earliest days of the chosen people, when a mysterious figure known only as Melchizedek blesses Abram and offers him bread and wine. From that day to this, the same elements indicate blessing, thanksgiving, the grace and providence of God.

The central action of our Eucharist involves the transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ not as some spiritual spectacle, but as a gift and nourishment for his followers. It was given freely and openly. Like the gift of bread on the hillside, the Eucharist is both simple and universal.

We as the Body of Christ go forth from the Eucharist on Sunday to transform our neighborhoods and our world. It’s easier than we might think. When we fall into the trap of thinking that our resources are limited, we need to bring what we have to Christ and let him show us how it can be enough. We always have others to help us in this task, making up for our lack with their abundance.


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Peter of Alcantara: Peter was a contemporary of well-known 16th-century Spanish saints, including Ignatius of Loyola and John of the Cross. He served as confessor to St. Teresa of Avila. Church reform was a major issue in Peter’s day, and he directed most of his energies toward that end. His death came one year before the Council of Trent ended. 
<p>Born into a noble family (his father was the governor of Alcantara in Spain), Peter studied law at Salamanca University and, at 16, joined the so-called Observant Franciscans (also known as the discalced, or barefoot, friars). While he practiced many penances, he also demonstrated abilities which were soon recognized. He was named the superior of a new house even before his ordination as a priest; at the age of 39, he was elected provincial; he was a very successful preacher. Still, he was not above washing dishes and cutting wood for the friars. He did not seek attention; indeed, he preferred solitude.</p><p>Peter’s penitential side was evident when it came to food and clothing. It is said that he slept only 90 minutes each night. While others talked about Church reform, Peter’s reform began with himself. His patience was so great that a proverb arose: "To bear such an insult one must have the patience of Peter of Alcantara."</p><p>In 1554, Peter, having received permission, formed a group of Franciscans who followed the Rule of St. Francis with even greater rigor. These friars were known as Alcantarines. Some of the Spanish friars who came to North and South America in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were members of this group. At the end of the 19th century, the Alcantarines were joined with other Observant friars to form the Order of Friars Minor.</p><p>As spiritual director to St. Teresa, Peter encouraged her in promoting the Carmelite reform. His preaching brought many people to religious life, especially to the Secular Franciscan Order, the friars and the Poor Clares.</p><p>He was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Remember the widow’s mite. She threw into the treasury of the temple only two small coins, but with them, all her great love…. It is, above all, the interior value of the gift that counts: the readiness to share everything, the readiness to give oneself. —Pope John Paul II

 
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