Preacher’s Sketchbook: Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 24, 2012

Each week, a Dominican member of the Provincial Preaching Advisory board prepares this Preacher’s Sketchbook in anticipation of the upcoming Sunday Mass. The idea of the Preacher’s Sketchbook is to take quotations from the authority of the Church–the Pope, the Fathers of the Church, documents of the Councils, the saints–that can help spark ideas for the Sunday homily. Just as an artist’s sketchbook preserves ideas for later elaboration, so we hope the Preacher’s Sketchbook will provide some ideas for homiletical elaboration.


Saint John Chrysostom, Homily 42

He performed the miracle when the loaves were not yet in sight in order that you may learn that things that do not exist, as well as those that do, are subject to Him, as Paul says: ‘He who calls things that are not as thought they were (Rom 4:17). Indeed, He bade them at once to recline, as though the table were prepared and ready. Thus, by this means also He aroused the interest of His disciples. And because they had derived benefit from His questioning, they at once obeyed and did not become perturbed or say: ‘What in the world is this? How is it that you give the order to recline, when there is nothing in evidence in our midst?’ Thus, even before seeing the miracle, they began to believe, who in the beginning were so lacking in faith as to say: ‘Whence shall we buy bread?’ In fact, they began even eagerly to make the crown recline.

Saint Augustine, Homily 24

The deed was both amazing because it was extraordinary and useful because it was spiritual. Those who saw it at that time were amazed; we on the other hand are not amazed when we hear the account of it. It was done, I mean, for them to see, while it has been written down for us to hear. What their eyes could do for them, faith is able to do for us. We discern with our minds what we have not been able to see with our eyes, and we have an advantage over them because about us it was said, Blessed are those who doe not see, and yet believe (Jn 20:29). I must add, though, that maybe we have also understood what that crowd did not understand; and we have truly been fed, because we have been able to get at the kernel of the barley.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John, #860

We see his humility because he took the bread and gave it to the people. Now although in this miracle Christ could have fed the people with bread created from nothing, he chose to do so by multiplying bread that already existed. He did this, first, to show that sensible things do not come from the devil, as the Manichean error maintains. For if this were so, our Lord would not have used sensible things to praise God, especially since “The Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8). He did it, secondly, to show that they are also wrong in claiming that the teachings of the Old Testament are not from God but from the devil. Thus, to show that the doctrine of the New Testament is none other than that which was prefigured and contained in the teachings of the Old Testament, he multiplied bread that already existed, implying by this that he is the one who fulfills the law and brings it to perfection: “I have not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it,” as we read in Matthew (5:17).

Saint Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John, #862

Finally, those who ate were completely satisfied, because they took as much as they wanted. For Christ is the only one who feeds an empty soul and fills a hungry soul with good things: “I will be satisfied when your glory appears” (Ps 16:15). Others perform miracles through having grace in a partial manner; Christ, on the other hand, does so with unlimited power, since he does all things superabundantly. Hence it says that the people had their fill.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John, #864

The Evangelist says that after the people had eaten their fill, Christ said to his disciples: Gather up the fragments that are left over. This was not pretentious display on our Lord’s part; he did it to show that the miracle he accomplished was not imaginary, since the collected leftovers kept for some time and provided food for others. Again, he wanted to impress this miracle more firmly on the hearts of his disciples, whom he had carry the leftovers: for most of all he wanted to teach his disciples, who were destined to be the teachers of the entire world.

Pope Paul VI, Address to Participants at the World Food Conference, 9 November 1974

…After liberally feeding the crowds, the Lord told his disciples to gather up what was left over, lest anything should be lost. What an excellent lesson in thrift—in the finest and fullest meaning of the term— for our age, given as it is to wastefulness! It carries with it the  condemnation of a whole concept of society wherein consumption tends to become an end in itself, with contempt for the needy, and to the detriment, ultimately, of those very people who believed themselves to be its beneficiaries, having become incapable of perceiving that man is called to a higher destiny.

Bl. Pope John Paul II, Opening Address to the Third Conference of Latin American Bishops, 28 January 1979

The Gospels clearly show that for Jesus anything that would alter his mission as the Servant of Yahweh was a temptation (cf. Mt 4:8, Lk 4:5). He does not accept the position of those who mixed the things of God with merely political attitudes (cf. Mt 22:21; Mk 12:17; Jn 18:36). …The perspective of his mission is much deeper. It consists in complete salvation through transforming, peacemaking, pardoning, and reconciling love. There is no doubt, moreover, that all this makes many demands on the Christian who wishes truly to serve his least brethren, the poor, the needy, the outcast; in a word, all those who in their lives reflect the sorrowing face of the Lord.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1335

The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of his Eucharist. The sign of water turned into wine at Cana already announces the Hour of Jesus’ glorification. It makes manifest the fulfillment of the wedding feast in the Father’s kingdom, where the faithful will drink the new wine that has become the Blood of Christ.



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