Catholic homily outline for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Self-giving

“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”

“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;
but what good are these for so many?”

Central idea: Self-giving. Doctrine: The exchange of spiritual gifts in the communion of the Church. Practical application: Ways to live the communion of the Church.

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths.

(To read more about this approach, click here.) This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)

To view Lectionary 110, click here.

Central idea: Self-giving

Reading 1 2 Kgs 4:42-44

A man came from Baal-shalishah bringing to Elisha, the man of God,
twenty barley loaves made from the firstfruits,
and fresh grain in the ear.
Elisha said, “Give it to the people to eat.”
But his servant objected,
“How can I set this before a hundred people?”
Elisha insisted, “Give it to the people to eat.”
“For thus says the LORD,
‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.’”
And when they had eaten, there was some left over,
as the LORD had said.

  • The prophet Elisha worked many miracles. People knew he was a prophet, because his words were backed up by signs.
  • Elisha made the food a man gave him enough to feed a hundred people. Jesus made the food a boy gave him enough to feed five thousand. The people knew Jesus was a prophet, because his words were back up by signs. As the Gospel acclaim announces: “A great prophet has arisen in our midst. God has visited his people”!

Responsorial Psalm Ps 145:10-11, 15-16, 17-18

R. The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.

Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might.

The eyes of all look hopefully to you,
and you give them their food in due season;
you open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.

  • God’s creativity not only made the universe and the laws that govern it but he also continuously sustains it in its existence. For this we are thankful.
  • All creation, then, is dependent upon God. Nothing, not even subatomic particles, is radically independent, since if God withdrew his sustaining hand it would vanish back into nothingness. Living things are even more obvious dependent and interdependent for the sustenance of their bodies. Thus, everything’s and everyone’s eyes are on the Lord for what is necessary.
  • This psalm is really a prayer of thanksgiving for the God-given ecology, which gives us physical life and sustenance.
  • But this “natural” giving is not enough, because there is still poverty, sickness, floods, drought, and many other natural evils. So we rightly call upon the Lord for the help that we need.

Reading 2 Eph 4:1-6

Brothers and sisters:

I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:
one body and one Spirit,
as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all.

  • All human beings by nature are social and interdependent. Therefore, we have an obligation to help each other out. But Christians are, in a sense, just one person, so that what any one of us has belongs to all of us.

Alleluia Lk 7:16

A great prophet has arisen in our midst. God has visited his people.

  • Jesus’ signs, such as the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, are evidence that he is the Messiah.

Gospel Jn 6:1-15

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

  • “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.” Jesus used a good that belonged to one member of the crowd to benefit the entire crowd.
  • We have to assume that the boy gave Jesus those loaves and fishes. Jesus would not perform a sign for people against their will, just as he could not—as in, would not—perform many miracles in his home town because of their lack of faith.
  • Perhaps the boy heard the dialogue between Jesus and his disciples and he piped up to Andrew. This implies some kind of—at least—silent understanding between Jesus and the boy: “Will you give them?” “Yes.”
  • One lesson we can draw from this is that the little bit of good we have, if we generously offer it in Christ for others, can become a great deal of good. The boy’s five barley loaves and two fish fed five thousand men. This should encourage us to fill our days with acts of goodness, however small.
  • This miracle of the loaves and fishes prefigures the Eucharist. “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” (CCC 1335). We need food and drink and lots of other things in this life, but what we need most of all is God, and that is what the Eucharist gives us, Christ himself.

Doctrine: The exchange of spiritual gifts in the communion of the Church

  • There is unity in the Church because all of Christ’s faithful—in heaven, in purgatory, and here on earth—are united to each other and to the Blessed Trinity through Jesus Christ.
  • In this life here on earth, our unity is safeguarded by charity, by the profession of the one faith received from the apostles, by the sacraments, above all the Holy Eucharist, and by apostolic succession (CCC 815). This unity is only threatened by sin and its harmful consequences (CCC 814).
  • Along with this unity, there is great diversity within the Church due to “the variety of God’s gifts and the diversity of those who receive them” (CCC 814). This diversity is a very good thing, since everyone’s individual good is meant to be a gift to benefit everyone else.
  • God’s desire and our own deepest desire (if we are desiring aright) is communion. Communion literally means unity-with. Communion is the deepest friendship, resting on charity, which is willing the true good of the other.
  • Some aspects of this communion are:
    • Communion in the faith. The faith of the faithful is the faith of the Church, received from the apostles. Faith is a treasure of life which is enriched by being shared.” (CCC 949)
    • Communion of the sacraments. . . . All the sacraments are sacred links uniting the faithful with one another and binding them to Jesus Christ . . . [and above all the Eucharist] . . . because it is primarily the Eucharist that brings this communion about.” (CCC 950)
    • Communion of charisms. [The] Holy Spirit ‘distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank’ for . . . ‘the common good.” (CCC 951)
    • Communion of goods. “Everything the true Christian has is to be regarded as a good possessed in common with everyone else. All Christians should be ready and eager to come to the help of the needy . . . and of their neighbors in want.” (CCC 952)
    • Communion in charity. . . . In . . . solidarity with all men, living or dead, which is founded on the communion of saints, the least of our acts done in charity redounds to the profit of all. Every sin harms this communion.” (CCC 953)
    • Communion among the three states within the Church of heaven, purgatory, and earth. All the saved form one family and our “union is reinforced by an exchange of spiritual goods” (CCC 959).
      • The saints in heaven can intercede for us (CCC 956). The souls in purgatory can help us and we can help them through our prayers and sacrifices (CCC 958).

Practical application: Ways to live the communion of the Church

  • In our prayer we can greet the souls in heaven, ask for the repose of the souls in purgatory, and ask all of them to assist us on earth through the Blessed Trinity.
  • At Mass each Sunday, we can be mindful of what unites us with the communion of saints: we repent of our only enemy: sin; we make our profession of faith together; and then, through the actions of the priest ordained through apostolic succession, receive Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and an influx of his charity.
  • The “Holy Spirit distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank for . . . the common good” (CCC 951). We can discern what gift God has given us so as to benefit others. Maybe we can help others discern their gifts. It may take a long time to make these discoveries.
  • We can be friends with each person of the Blessed Trinity, our guardian angels, the souls in heaven and purgatory, and our fellow man—we can be in communion with all of them. “All the saved form one family” and we share solidarity with all men. (CCC 956-959)
    • We can ask the saints in heaven to help us in specific things. We can ask specific saints. We can even ask particular people we have known to intercede for us.
    • We can pray for the souls in purgratory, especially during the month of November and on Saturdays.
    • We can make a visit to a cemetery to pray for the souls whose bodies rest there.
  • “Faith is a treasure of life which is enriched by being shared” (CCC 949). When we live our faith in action and word, we enrich our own faith, the faith of our fellow believers, and help those who do not yet believe.
  • We can be aware that every sacrament links each of the faithful with each other and to Christ (CCC 950).
  • We can also live the communion of goods. “Everything the true Christian has is to be regarded as a good possessed in common with everyone else. All Christians should be ready and eager to come to the help of the needy . . . and of their neighbors in want.” (CCC 952)
  • We can live the communion of charity. “The least of our actions done in charity redounds to the profit of all”—living and dead, just as “every sin harms this communion” (CCC 953).
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