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Bishop's Homily for the Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

July 25, 2021

[St. Anthony Church, Kalihi (Installation of Pastor)]

Weeds seem to multiply with amazing speed.  Gossip also has a way of quickly reaching curious ears, sometimes with the story becoming more distorted the more it is told.  Little tiny mole hills of disagreement can grow into huge mountains that damage marriages, family relationships and friendships.  A little spark in a dry forest can turn into a raging inferno that destroys everything around it.  So it is not too hard for us to understand how something so small can multiply so rapidly.

Today we see Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes.  They were so little for such a vast crowd, and the apostles themselves, who had already seen Jesus work many miracles, are astounded that not only did so little feed so many, but that there were even leftovers.  It is a reminder that just as bad things can rapidly multiply, so can good things, if we put our faith and trust in the Lord, offer the little we have, and give it away freely.

During this pandemic we have been aware of people who suffered tremendously from lack of work and lack of resources to pay their rent or put food on the table.  Yet the community has been tremendously generous during this time, and many pitched in to see that brothers and sisters in need were taken care of.  Those who had little themselves put their faith in God and thankfully shared their resources with others, and we saw the multiplication of loaves in a real way there.

But we must look deeper into the Gospel story and relate it to what follows, the Gospels we will hear for the next several Sundays from the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, in which Jesus refers to himself as the Bread of Life, given for the life of the world.  Some in the crowd Jesus fed thought his miracle was the physical feeding of the multitude.  In reality, however, the finest food he offered them that day was an encounter with himself, the God-man who had come to lay down his life for them.  Here was one single person who nourished the souls of thousands because of his unwavering faith, gratitude, and love.

When we come here to celebrate the Eucharist, it does not seem like very much.  We spend an hour or so listening, praying, singing, and coming together in fellowship.  We come to receive the tiniest morsel of what appears to be bread, but we know if the Body of Christ himself.  This is our weekly (or for some, daily) physical encounter with the risen Jesus, so that he can feed our souls and nourish them with his love.  It is so important that we reflect on what is not always obvious to everyone:  that here the singular Jesus feeds this multitude of people, and not only us gathered here but millions of people in every time zone in the world who gather to remember Jesus as he commanded us to do.

But there is much more!  Just as there were twelve baskets of leftovers collected at that miraculous feeding on the seashore, Jesus wants us to take away from here what we have received and what we have become.  He wants to multiply his presence, his healing power, and his love through us, who have come into intimate communion with him.  He wants us to touch every member of our family, every colleague at school or work, every neighbor and even to reach out to the ends of the earth with this simple gift of Jesus that we receive here.  He wants faith in him to grow like wildfire so that it can burn out all the sinful tendencies in our lives and in our culture and clear the way for new growth.  He wants to reach out to all who hunger for acceptance, for dignity, for justice, and for love by thanking God for us little ones who gather together in his name, and then sending us out to satisfy those needs.  He wants respect for life in all its stages, dignity for all people, and peace on earth to proliferate like weeds, not to bring problems and condemnation to the world, but to bring it eternal life.

Yes, we are just little fish in the vast sea, little loaves of bread who cannot feed many.  But when we come here to place ourselves in the hands of Jesus, he can multiply his love in the world beyond measure and amaze again and again all who come to know him.