17th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
July 26, 2015


Most of us, if not all, have experiences in traveling. Unless you travel in style, merely transposing oneself from one place to the other in the Philippines, can be a real ordeal … for many reasons … most of them economic.  For one, you cannot drink  too much liquids, or you have to make a scene to ask the driver to stop some place to relieve yourself. Second, it is cumbersome to lug foodstuffs with you. For hours on end, one will have to make do with biscuits or dry bread with not much else that can spoil in a matter of hours. Third, depending on where you go, food may not be available, or you could only get some by paying more than four times their usual price.

Both the first and third readings talk about people on a journey. In the first reading, crowds followed the “man of God,” Elisha. In the third reading, crowds flocked towards the “wonder worker,” not so much because they were enamored by what he said, but because they were attracted by what he did. They followed him because “they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.”

I believe the man who came up to Elisha with his generous offering of “first fruits” intended for God, but offered to the “man of God,” was well provided for. He traveled in style, and his generosity showed he recognized, above all, the generosity of God. He offered the “first fruits” – the best, the juiciest, the healthiest, the most nourishing – gifts that were fit for the Lord from whom all good things came!

He did not just travel in style. He worshiped and sacrificed without counting the cost. And he gave freely and generously.

The disciple Philip may have been a good accountant who did his mental math and came up with a lightning fast calculation that had to do with how much money it would cost them to feed the hungry 5,000 men (and the equally hungry 5,000 women and 5,000 children!). The disciple Andrew may have been eagle-eyed and observant enough to spot some nervous and hassled boy who apparently did not travel light at all. He was probably dragging his big ruck sack along with his big packed lunch of buns and filets of fish galore!

Prize catch! So Andrew thought! And he lost no time in taking him to the Master.

Mind you, there was no clear sign the people were physically hungry. But the people were hungry in some other way … They were hungry for signs … big signs … They saw how he cured the sick. They wanted to see more action!

The good Lord engaged them. He told the disciples to make the men recline (What about the women and children?) Oh oh … they probably were busy acting as choir and back-up singers as the biggest sign of all was unfolding before their very eyes.

It was a sign that pointed to the satisfaction of more than physical hunger. It was a sign that told the crowds that the Lord was generous and more! It was a sign that pointed to the nature of God as provident, as constant and even as profligate in his gifts that went beyond mere bodily nourishment.  No … the Lord was not a simple restaurateur who gave away free samples of filet-o-fish sandwiches.

The Lord was healer. The Lord was provider. The Lord was a giver of what they needed then, and what they would need for all time.

He was giving them a sign of His ultimate gift – His Body and Blood – his life, death, and resurrection, not just to tide them over that overnight journey out in the desert, but all through the desert of our earthly existence.

I love filet-o-fish sandwiches. If I were there, I would have welcomed the gift with glee. But I know I need more than sandwiches. I need a boost in my life in its totality. And life in its fullness definitely goes beyond week-end get-aways and picnics galore.

I need food … food for eternal life … food that “whosoever would eat if, will live forever.”

The Lord today gives more. He gives food to hungry and not so hungry people. But his gifts are more than G+  … He does “bestow in abundance.”

“Bestow in abundance your mercy upon us, and grant that we may use the good things that pass in such a way as to hold fast even now to those that ever endure.” Amen.