Reflection: 29th July 2018

A Reflection for the Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

JN 6: 1-15 (

Jesus is the pinnacle of humanity, that marvellous, seamless blend of divinity and humanity in one person. In all that he is and does, He reflects what it means to be in a profound and intimate relationship with God. His core message to us is simple: we are invited to see, know and respond to God as he does, to find life and meaning in God as he does.

The miracle of the loaves and fishes is one of the many signs Jesus used to provide insight into who he is, and into the inner life of the God he reveals. In this miracle we find that the crowds were genuinely spellbound by the signs that Jesus performed, and for this reason continued to follow him. However, they had not grasped what the sign of the loaves and fishes meant – they only followed because he healed them and provided food for them. They were primarily fixated on the satisfaction of their own needs, and, being fascinated by his power, saw him as a person who could liberate them from their political situation. They wanted to make him their king but Jesus escaped into the desert to avoid such a misunderstanding of who he is and what his signs meant. They did not believe in him or understand what he was trying to teach them. They only saw the superficial gains that could be achieved by following him. Jesus wanted the people to look deeper than the externals to find the food that lasts, to discover true life in abundance, to flourish with and through God’s life in them.  They did not understand this.

This begs the questions:

  • Do we understand?
  • Are we like the crowds that followed Jesus?
  • Are we simply fascinated by his person and power?
  • Do we follow Jesus only for what we can get from him?
  • Are we only interested in the consolation God gives or in getting to heaven and living for ever?  
  • At what point do we come to real and actual faith in Jesus and his message?
  • Do we see the deeper significance and meaning of the signs that he shows us, signs that bring us to contemplate the person of Jesus and the extraordinary reality of God, and allow it to permeate the entirety of our being?

In The Sign, the recently published book by Seán Goan, faith is presented not as something that you have but what you do; it is not something that you possess but something you are; it is not about security or personal fulfilment but is the ultimate act of trust in, and self-giving to, a God who loves us beyond all understanding, and longs for union and communion with us. If we are inclined to such faith in God then, perhaps, like Jesus, we might feel duty-bound to provide our own signs of faith in God at home, with colleagues, in work! Inevitably, our signs will not be as dramatic as those of Jesus but faith in God, love of God, and knowing real life in God are meant to be so life-enhancing and transformative that they need to be expressed. St. Francis is attributed to have said that if we are Christians, if we have experienced the love of God then, for our sake and the sake of others, we must preach Jesus and if necessary use words.

Denis Robinson C.S.Sp. – Fr. Denis is currently Director of the Centre for Catholic Education at Marino Institute of Education, Dublin. He previously served in Ghana, Duquesne University, and Milltown Institute of Philosophy and Theology.