of Creighton University's Online Ministries
July 31st, 2011
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignation Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
Today is the feast of the founder of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits. In 1556 Ignatius, formerly of the castle of Loyola in the north of Spain, died for the last time. He lived his early life totally dedicated to the celebration and advancement of himself. He lived to indulge his vanities in the courtly circles and military ranks until he was brought to his knees by a cannonball while fighting the French invaders. It was his first of many dyings; no more warring, looking “fine” and no more spending his wages “on what fails to satisfy”.
During his physical recovery he began recovering his senses; the sense of the giftliness of God, the sense of responsibility for the gifts of his body, life, creation. He was a man of, and in recovery, especially the vision of seeing the fingerprints of God on everything. He had been found and kept being found even as he help find others. His awareness of the presence of God allowed him to be more freely present to the challenges of following Jesus right into the lives and hearts of others. He gathered his early companions while studying in Paris and they eventually dedicated themselves to celebrating and advancing the person and mission of Jesus. He taught the art of dying daily and hourly to the seductive invitations of the world and the Evil One.
Ignatius had listened well to what failed to nourish him and heard deeply, “Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life.” Please join us in praying in thanksgiving for the life, deaths and call of Ignatius Loyola. Please pray that we - his companions - can be likewise faithful to the listening, the dyings and the joys of following Jesus.
What we hear in the First Reading for this liturgy are three short poetic invitations which begin the last chapter of the Book of Consolation within the collections known as the Prophet Isaiah. These sixteen chapters are made up of oracles, poems, foretelling of the future, and bold announcements to the people of Israel who are in captivity. The entire chapter is worth reading for our own consolations in our personal times of unfreedom and worry.
The Gospel for today opens with Jesus’ hearing of the death of His cousin John, the account of which immediately precedes the verses for today. Jesus retires to a boat and heads across the water to a lonely place for obvious reasons. For further obvious reasons the crowds follow Him. For even further obvious reasons Jesus allows His space to be interrupted by the crowds and their sick. He then extends Himself into the crowd by taking bread and fish and blessing them for distribution. The crowd numbers over five thousand and Jesus gives the bread and fish to His early church-members for the feeding. When those who had eaten were full, there were still leftovers; imagine that.
Each of the four gospels has at least one account of this miraculous bread-and-fish display. It is the only story from the public life of Jesus heard by all four writers, so it must be quite symbolic and important to the message and purpose of Jesus.
It would be a good thing to reflect upon how Jesus let go of His own personal loss to find the lost in the crowd and how He had compassion on them and got out of Himself to be for others. That would be a good prayer.
This gospel story seems to me to be about fragility. The crowd, the paucity of the bread/fish offering, the simple humanity of the disciples charged with the miraculous multiplications. There is really not much new in this story. Jesus meets people where they are, in their truth. He meets them in a condition in which they wish they were not. Jesus uses the meaningful gestures of humanity to attract to the reality beyond words.
As a Catholic priest I am grateful that I cannot comprehend totally all that I and we are doing together at the Eucharist. I believe it deeply, but my own human frailty and yours prevent us from doing what the disciples were asked to do. The fragility of the unconsecrated bread is such a comfort. It is me; it is you, individually and communally. I would love, at least once, to grasp, as I grasp the bread of consecration, the depth of the intensity of Christ’s desires for His being with us in our own fragility. I often ponder that it is a gift that we do not know what we are doing and if we did, we might not want to do such an immensely sacred thing. I wonder if and when the disciples found out that they were at the multiplication tables themselves. Perhaps they too, were prevented from experiencing the depths of love which Jesus had through them, for His lost little ones.
One more little feature of consolation from this gospel story. The fragments! Why the baskets-full? Twelve wicker baskets left for future losties. Twelve disciples left over to do the extending. We all are in search for fullness, enoughness. The love of Jesus for the human family is left over for further and future feedings. The fragility of each of us is embraced, a blessing is said over us, an urgency is extended through us to embrace our littleness as God does and let it be given, let it be done, let it be more than we can comprehend, but just the right amount for our handing it over and over and over again. We are the bread He blesses and we are how He looks upon the fragility around us and says, “You are more than enough!”
“Take Lord, receive, all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, my entire will.
St. Ignatius Loyola, from The Spiritual Exercises
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook