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  Weekly Scripture Studies

July 27, 2003 Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

The information and commentary presented each week on this page are actually notes for the Saturday Scripture Class held at St. Raymond Parish, Dublin, Ca. These notes are not intended to be used in isolation but as background information for the readings and starting points for group discussion. This page is updated with the following Sunday's readings each Sunday night (California Time). The Saturday Morning Scripture Class meets to discuss the weekend Mass readings each Saturday from 9:30 to 10:30 in the Conference Room or in Multipurpose Room Number 2. No registration or prior arrangement is needed; everyone is welcome anytime.

This week, we celebrate the Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time. The readings this week call us to consider the extent of our trust in God. In the first reading, Elisha fully expects that God will provide. The Gospel reading restates this theme with Eucharistic overtones. The power of Jesus is presented but it is not the main point of the Gospel reading. The real point is that through Jesus, God provides an abundance for His people. Like Elisha and Jesus, we too must trust in the Divine Provider. Today, the Church continues the ministry of Jesus in many ways. Central to carrying out that mission is the gathering for the Holy Eucharist in which we express our faith and together are strengthened by the Lord so that we can go forth and carry His presence into the world around us. In the second reading, we are reminded that all of us are united in the love that God has for us and that we are called to live as befits those who are so blessed. Our lives should reflect both the unity with each other and the unity with Jesus that is expressed in the Eucharist. We are a Eucharistic people and thanksgiving must always be in our hearts. This sense of thanksgiving should be a powerful motivation for our reaching out to others.

First Reading: 2 Kings 4: 42-44

42 A man came from Baal-shalishah bringing the man of God twenty barely loaves made from the first fruits, and fresh grain in the ear. "Give it to the people to eat," Elisha said. 43 But his servant objected, "How can I set this before a hundred men?" "Give it to the people to eat," Elisha insisted. "For thus says the LORD, 'They shall eat and there shall be some left over.'" 44 And when they had eaten, there was some left over, as the LORD had said.
NOTES on First Reading:
* 4:42-44 This text is obviously the Old Testament backdrop for the New Testament multiplication of the loaves and fishes (Mark 6:34-44; 8:1-10 and parallels).

* 4:42 Parched corn, or corn to be parched is usually meant in this context. Full ears before they are ripe, parched on the fire was a very frequent food in the East. The loaves referred to here were probably extremely small, as the loaves of bread generally still are in eastern countries. As small as this seems, it would have been a considerable present during a time of famine such as this. Even so it was very inadequate for the number of persons that Elisha wishes to feed. Baal-shalisha, of which the person who made this seasonable present was an inhabitant, was situated, according to Eusebius and St. Jerome, fifteen miles north of Diospolis, or Lydda. It was about 10 miles southwest of Samaria.

* 4:42 The text draws a contrast between the calm self- assurance of the prophet and the querulously doubting question of the servant.

* 4:44 Having freely received, Elisha freely gave. God has promised Israel and by extension His Church, that He will abundantly bless her provision, and satisfy her poor with bread (Ps 132:15). whom He feeds, He fills; and what He blesses, comes to much. Christ's feeding His hearers was a miracle far beyond this, but both teach us that those who wait upon God in the way of duty, may hope to be supplied by Divine Providence.

Second Reading: Ephesians 4:1-6

1 I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, 3 striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: 4 one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
NOTES on Second Reading:
* 4:1-6 Paul invokes the image of himself as a prisoner in the Lord to confer his moral authority to the exhortation that follow. The unity of the new humanity is exemplified by the church's unity and fostered by the virtues that make life in common a reality: humility, gentleness, patience and forbearance. See also Col 3:12-15.

* 4:1 This verse begins the exhortation to worthy conduct that runs to 6:20. The exhortation stems from:
  1. the earlier statements about the unity of all things in Christ and the subjection of all things to Him (1:10, 22-23),
  2. the new humanity recreated through the sacrifice of Jesus (2:15-16), and
  3. the unity of Jews and Gentiles in the Church (3:4-6).

* 4:4-6 The unities mentioned, church, Spirit, hope; Lord, faith in Christ [Eph 1:13], baptism; and one God reflect the triune structure of later creeds in reverse.

* 4:6 This verse ends with a strong sense of monotheism (Deut 6:4; Rom 3:30; 1 Cor 8: 5-6). The Greek word, "panta," meaning all, is used four times here to express the transcendence and all-pervasiveness of God.

Gospel Reading: John 6: 1-15

1 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.
NOTES on Gospel:
* 6:1-15 This story (the multiplication of the loaves and fishes or the feeding of the five thousand) is one of the very few stories from John's Gospel that has parallels in each of the other gospels (Matt 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10b- 17). It is the only miracle story found in all four gospels (occurring twice in Mark and Matthew).

In John's Gospel this story of the multiplication of the loaves is the fourth sign. The story symbolizes the food that is really available through Jesus. It connotes a new exodus and has eucharistic overtones.

* 6:1-4 John has expanded the introduction and set up of the story by:
  • vaguely indicating a time (after this);
  • specifying a place (Sea of Galilee (of Tiberias)) although this may result from addition of 21:1;
  • adding a motivation for the crowd (because they saw the signs He was performing on the sick);
  • reference to the impending Passover (Passover of the Jews).
* 6:4 John differs from the synoptic gospels on the proximity of Passover.

* 6:5-9 John differs somewhat from the synoptic gospels on the roles of Philip and Andrew. The other gospels do not name the disciples with whom Jesus speaks.

* 6:5 John lacks a reference to the lateness of the hour or to the distress of the people as in Mark 6:35. As in all of the miracle stories in John's Gospel, this one comes about because of Jesus' initiative.

* 6:6-7 In John's Gospel, Jesus always knows everything. Here the question to Philip is a test in which Philip fails to recognize a call for faith and sees merely the large amount of money that would be required.

* 6:7 The term used here literally is "denarii" which is the plural of denarius. A Roman denarius is described as a day's wage in Matthew 20:2.

* 6:8-9 In contrast to Philip, Andrew does not focus on what they lack but on what they have and he brings what they do have to Jesus. Jesus responds by accepting what he brings and multiplies it to fill the need.

* 6:9 The loaves are barley loaves which were commonly the food of the poor. There also seems to be an allusion to the story of Elisha multiplying the barley bread in 2 Kings 4:42-44. This allusion seems to have been strengthened by John.

* 6:10 In order for there to be a great deal of grass in the place, it must have been spring time. As verse 5 says, Passover was near. Five thousand is also the number used in Mark 6:39,44 and its parallels.

* 6:11-12 The statement that Jesus distributed the bread points forward to the Jesus' bread of life discourse (6:22 and following). There are eucharistic overtones here which are emphasized by the reference to nothing being wasted (or lost) which is to be understood in the light of 6:27.

* 6:13 The huge amount of leftover food is from the tradition which had already built up around the story and speaks of the abundance of the provision that God lavishes upon us in Jesus.

* 6:14 Jesus is seen as the new Moses (Numbers 11:13). See also Malachi 3:1; 4:5. The people recognize that Jesus is the messianic prophet that they were awaiting but they fail to understand what that means and interpret it in military and political terms.

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The scripture quotes are from the text of the New American Bible with revised New Testament copyright © 1986,1970, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.