Gospel Reflection Questions

July 26, 2015 Reflection Questions 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015 10:10:00 AM

 Gospel Reflection Questions for
July 26, 2015
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
John 6:1-15

After this, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee (of Tiberias). 2 A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish feast of Passover was near.
5 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?" 6 He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, "Two hundred days' wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little (bit)." 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, 9 "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?"
10 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. 11 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. 12 When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, "Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted." 13 So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. 14 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." 15 Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

This week the text for the gospel reading moves from Mark to John’s gospel. The transition is almost seamless because we had come to the point in Mark’s gospel were he records his description of the multiplications of the loaves and fishes. In last week’s gospel the disciples returned from their missionary trip. Because of the crowd Jesus invited them to move apart to a deserted place to be alone with them. However the last verse of that text says that when they arrived at the place were they were going, a vast crowd had gone ahead of them and when Jesus saw them “… his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:34) Mark’s text continues with his description of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes:

35 By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said, "This is a deserted place and it is already very late. 36 Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat." 37 He said to them in reply, "Give them some food yourselves." But they said to him, "Are we to buy two hundred days' wages worth of food and give it to them to eat?" 38 He asked them, "How many loaves do you have? Go and see." And when they had found out they said, "Five loaves and two fish." 39 So he gave orders to have them sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 The people took their places in rows by hundreds and by fifties. 41 Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to (his) disciples to set before the people; he also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they picked up twelve wicker baskets full of fragments and what was left of the fish. 44 Those who ate (of the loaves) were five thousand men. (Mark 6:35-44)

The next five Sundays in ordinary time also come from John’s gospel and focus on the theme of “the Bread of Life.” This gives the Church the opportunity for an extended reflection on this theme.

Turning now to the gospel text itself, in the opening verses Jesus’ signs of power have had a huge impact on the people, so much so that crowds were now following him. John does not mention that Jesus’ teaching impresses them. The sense is that there is something else which has attracted the people. There is also no mention that the people are hungry or that Jesus has been teaching them at some length. Therefore the desire to feed the people is rooted in something other than the crowd’s request or desire to be fed. The focus is on the incident as a sign of the power of God in the person of Jesus.

The feast of Passover also coincides with the feast of Unleavened Bread. These feasts celebrate the people’s release from the slavery of the Egyptians and the first harvest in the new Promised Land. Their celebration recalls the saving events of the past and looks forward in hope to the final age of complete fulfillment, the Kingdom of God. It is also the season of the barley harvest. After wheat, barley was the most plentiful grain. It was more tolerant to variations in weather and it grew to maturity quicker than wheat. Barley loaves were considered to be the bread of the very poor. The fish mentioned in the text would have been small fish, no larger than sardines, and were probably dried.

In Mark’s account, the disciples play a much more active role. The disciples approach Jesus about the people’s need for food, Jesus tells them that they should provide for the need, and they help distribute the food. But in John’s account here, Jesus initiates the incident by asking Philip where they could buy food. Jesus knows what he is going to do, and there is no mention that the disciples help distribute the food. In both texts, there is a similarity to the Eucharist in that Jesus takes the food, gives thanks, and distributes the food. In John, the connection is made stronger by focusing primarily on the bread. In both texts the miraculous nature of what has taken place is highlighted by the fact that twelve baskets of leftovers are collected. John also makes it clear that the people understand the nature of what has taken place. They see what has taken place as a signal that the time of completion is near. The fulfillment of the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread has finally arrived, and the people move to make Jesus their king.

Reflection Questions:
1. How much of your prayer is asking for some sign of God’s power, either in your life, in the life of someone you know, or in the world? How much of your prayer asks that God use you as a disciple of Jesus, as a sign of His presence and encouragement for others?
2. Phillip and Andrew respond to the situation very differently. Do you know people who would be more likely to respond like Phillip or like Andrew? How about your parish community, do they respond more like Phillip or Andrew?
3. Do you ever feel like Jesus is asking you questions but already knows what He intends to do? What happens inside of you in those situations?
4. Of what significance is it that John makes sure we know they were barley loaves? What meaning does that give to the text for you?
5. Jesus uses the bread and the fish of a boy in the crowd. What does that say to you about how God works even in the glorious signs of God’s power and presence? Is that how God works in your life now? Do you think it is how God will work in the future, too?
6. When do think was the last time most of these people ate until they had their fill? What does that say to you about God’s generosity?
7. Do you think that God desires for the needy, in whatever form that need takes, to experience that kind of generosity at least once in a while?
8. Which part of this text seems to touch you? Does this help you to see your relationship with God more clearly? Does it help you to appreciate the Sunday Eucharistic celebration more fully?

On Wednesday of each week, the Gospel for the upcoming Sunday is posted at the following link: http://www.il-ritiro.org/gospel-reflections.aspx. You are invited to share your own reflections at this website.

Reflection questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel. To be added to the distribution list, send your name and email address to fr.paul.gallagher.ofm@gmail.com.

A Spanish translation of the reflection questions is made possible by Fernando Alessandrini.
Please include this information when printing or forwarding.

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