For Sunday, July 29, 2012
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 Kings 4:42-44
We take a break this weekend from our regular reading of Mark's Gospel to delve into the sixth chapter of the Gospel according to John. For five weeks we will hear the miracle of the loaves and fishes and the "Bread of Life" discourse of Jesus that follows. The words that we will hear in the weeks to come form a significant portion of Johannine eucharistic theology. (Another important aspect of John's theology of the Eucharist is found in the action of Jesus at the Last Supper when he washed his disciples' feet and the discourse that follows.)
The words of Jesus in the weeks ahead are rich in meaning, so much so that we cannot easily take it all in with a single hearing, nor exhaust the import with years of study. Like the miracle itself we have some understanding, but grasp for ways to explain it.
In a blog post two weeks ago on the Washington Post site, Br. Guy Consolmagno, SJ, wrote about the analogous language that we use—in reference to God but also, surprisingly, in reference to science. Br. Guy is an astronomer, a member of the staff at the Vatican Observatory. As a scientist Br. Guy gets asked questions about anything that has to do with science and religion. As he said in his blog post, "answering questions about anything new in science that might have a connection to religion is one of the unofficial tasks of anyone who works at the Vatican Observatory." And even though he is not a particle physicist, the recent announcement about the probable discovery of the Higgs boson—which some people call the "God particle"—had people asking Br. Guy what he thought.
The essence of Br. Guy's answer to folks about the Higgs boson bears on the deep meaning that is attached to Jesus' words in the Bread of Life discourse and the miracle that precedes it. He said: "The disciplines of science and religion complement each other in practical ways. For example, both are involved in describing things that are beyond human language and so must speak in metaphors. Not only is the 'God Particle' not a piece of God, it is also not really a 'particle' in the sense that a speck of dust is a particle. In both cases we use familiar images to try to illustrate an entity of great importance but whose reality is beyond our power to describe literally. The mysteries revealed by modern science are a constant reminder that reality is bigger than our day-to-day lives."
Br. Guy's analysis of the way people talk about the Higgs boson also applies to the Eucharist that we share Sunday after Sunday: "we use familiar images to try to illustrate an entity of great importance but whose reality is beyond our power to describe literally."
As we will hear in the weeks ahead, Jesus' flesh is real food and his blood real drink, words that are hard to comprehend.
We don't analyze the Eucharist with particle physics, nor do we attempt to view the miracle through the discipline of science. Whether it was the bread that Elisha gave out at Gilgal or the loaves and fishes that Jesus distributed on the mountain across the Sea of Galilee, it is faith that perceives the mystery of a reality that is beyond our power to describe literally.
In whatever way we understand the miracles, they remain examples of an equitable distribution in time of need. Everyone gets enough; there is no shortage of what God provides.
That thought alone can provide us with a month of meditation as well as a spur to personal action to ensure that we use what God has given us for the benefit of those who have less.
Creator of the universe,
you set the stars in motion
and ordered all creation according to your law.
May we use wisely what you have given us
and may our brothers and sister benefit
for your blessings as we show your love to them.
We ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
BIBLE CONCORDANCE ONLINE
Although it's been mentioned before, here is a friendly reminder that you can find an online concordance to the New American Bible on the Vatican website. The concordance includes both the biblical text and the notes. The link is: www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/_FA.HTM.
INVITE PARISH MEMBERS TO CONNECT TO THE WORD ONLINE
The Wednesday Morning Connection blog offers a thoughtful look at the Sunday Scriptures by connecting them to current headlines, and is available to pastors and parishioners alike. Invite your parish members to sign up for the weekly e-mail at www.4LPi.com/WedMorning. Publish the URL in your bulletin or newsletter, and your members can enjoy the weekly e-mail too.
THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH—E-BOOK VERSION
The Catechism of the Catholic Church has been released as an e-book by the USCCB. This new, easy-to-navigate version, offer quick search capabilities, preview windows, and easy links to follow up on topics. Share the link in your parish bulletin, school and religious education flyers, and monthly newsletter. You'll find this excellent resource at: www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/epub/index.cfm.
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