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17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” (Jn. 6:1-15)

Imagine the incredulous look on Philip’s face when Jesus asked him that question. Church leaders probably voiced the same sentiments as they faced the looming problem of hunger during the pandemic.

My sisters and brothers, we have seen the ugly face of hunger. Etched in our memory is the scene week after week, endless lines of cars snaking around parking lots of churches. With the look of despair and desperation and little children with wondrous eyes, adults hope that each drive-by will yield some food.

The face of hunger was a family affair.

The ominous question, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” became the distress call for many churches and organizations. True disciples know that God expects us to come to the aid of one another and to share what we have, answered the call. On a weekly basis, there were announcements of “giveaways” of staples, fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish. The response was overwhelming. Our own parish food pantry went from serving 8-10 families a month to 50 a week!

Food satisfies the body. What about the spirit?

During quarantine, church buildings were ordered closed for worship. Livestreaming Mass was the new normal. The faithful found a sense of spiritual fulfillment, but for many, something was missing. Hunger pangs tugged at the soul. We longed for the presence of the Holy Eucharist!

Spiritual insecurity is real. My spirit longs for You, O God!

Jesus’ actions on the mountain reveal God as nourishing, caring, protective, loving, and concerned for all our needs. When Jesus fed the crowd, he fed them all as equals. No one was denied food because of one’s beliefs, lifestyle, ethnicity, political affiliation, or social status. Jesus fed them all with an abundance of leftovers. Everyone was accepted and respected. Beautiful mountain top experience!

We need to pray that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will have a mountain top experience. It would be mindful for our shepherds to reflect on the words of St. Paul as they engage in debate about who can and cannot receive the Eucharist. “So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God” (Eph. 5:1-2).

If the bishops really know their flock, they know that we, children of God, are spiritually hungry. We are poor in spirit, and we want to be blessed with food for the soul.

Unlike Phillip, there is no need to worry about costs. There is no spiritual food insecurity. Jesus purchased all we need. He invites ALL to come to the feast and enjoy the Bread of Life “This is my Body, which is given for you” (Lk. 22:19).

Taste and see that God is truly good!

Author: Elder Burma S. Hill, St. Joseph Church, Largo, Md.

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