As Christian disciples, we are called to love – to love God above all else and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is a very simple and yet very profound calling that, as St. Paul reminds us, follows the footsteps of Christ. His life and His mission was and still is one steeped in, focused on, and driven by pure, selfless, life-giving love.
Likewise, our lives should not be focused on the things that the world called great – attaining the latest technology or the best job or the newest house – they should be focused completely on loving God and one another and living that love through selfless service.
The Lord’s generosity knows no bounds, just as His love for us is unconditional and everlasting. It does not spring forth from some deserving act of our own, as if He owes it to us to be generous with His gifts — nor does He expect anything in return. The Lord gives, and He gives generously, solely because He loves us. Thus, it is our duty as disciples to live lives of gratitude to God for all He has given us. But His generosity is in no way bound to our responsibility to live gratefully or, for that matter, to our ability to actually do so.
As today’s readings show us, God gives and gives and gives — regardless of our response, and regardless of our attitude toward Him. He gives of Himself, and He gives out of love — pure and simple.
Today’s first reading begins with the Israelites’ ingratitude. God had just used Moses and Aaron to lead them out of slavery in Egypt. Yet, all they could focus on was their current lack of food. But despite their poor attitudes and their utter ungratefulness, the Lord continued to work wonders for them. He continued to give of Himself out of love for them.
“I will now rain down bread from heaven for you … I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your full of bread.” (more…)
Today’s readings draw our attention to the gift par excellence — the Eucharist. In this central mystery of our faith, Christ gives us Himself, completely — Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. It is so much more than we deserve, so much more than we can wrap our human minds around. It is Jesus Himself. And He invites us to partake of it — to consume Him — so that we might have life in Him.
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (Jn. 6:35).
Every time we step forward to receive the Eucharist, we literally take the Savior into our own bodies. And in so doing, we are given a grace to live our lives to the full, to show forth God’s glory.
How will we respond to God’s gifts of self, to His unconditional outpouring of love?
Will we offer Him ourselves in return — unconditionally? That is what it means to be Christ’s disciples. We recognize His gifts, we see that they are given solely out of love — he expects nothing back — and we respond in sheer gratitude and awe struck wonder, offering Him our whole lives in return!
When we reflect on today’s Gospel, we are undoubtedly awed. Jesus fed 5,000 people with five barley loaves and two fish, and there were 12 baskets of leftovers. It is, indeed an awe-inspiring miracle that ought to get our minds whirling with amazement.
Yet, it is not merely at this specific miracle that we should marvel, as we reflect on today’s readings. It is what this miracle, as well as the one in today’s first reading — in which Elisha prefigured Jesus, feeding 100 people with 20 barley loaves — convey about God’s love and unconditional generosity toward each and every one of us, as well as the part that we can play in God’s miraculous plans.
Let’s take a look at how the Gospel begins. Jesus and the apostles had been traveling from town to town ministering to people. They were exhausted, and crossed the sea in order to get some rest. However, thousands of people followed and stood eagerly waiting for them to continue their ministry. They were hungry for the Gospel — and, no doubt, hungry for food. Jesus and His disciples were surely overwhelmed. But, just as in last week’s Gospel, Jesus sees the need and He cares for it. He knew they needed Him, and He was there. (more…)
Today’s Gospel speaks to us of God’s unconditional love for us and His boundless generosity. He cares for our needs in such a way that we are not only cared for, but we are given more than we could ever ask for.
He does this on His own accord, of His own free will, and with His own capability. But He asks us to help. He wants us to help. He calls us to help.
Just as the boy with five barley loves and three fish was called upon to give what he had in order for Christ to carry out His mission, each one of us is called to give what we have to assist the Lord.
He loves and cares for every one, every single human being, and He longs to care for everyone — physically and spiritually. With that mission in mind, He calls each one of us to assist Him, to give Him all we have — our time, our talents and our treasure — so that, together with Him, we can feed the world, offering others the Love of Christ and sharing the Gospel with them.
This is what it means to be Christ’s disciples. We give of ourselves so that His mission, His ministry can be carried out here and now. This bring all those we meet closer to Him and spreading the Gospel throughout our parishes, our cities, and the whole world!
Shepherding imagery was very familiar to the people in Jesus’ place and time, and to those before them. So, we often see the Lord refer to His people as sheep in parables and the like. While for us here in the western world, the work of a shepherd is often unseen — most of us have never and will never work with sheep — the Israelites knew it well. They watched as the shepherds cared for their sheep as if they were their children. The shepherds made sure the sheep had everything they needed, and gently herded them in at night, making sure each was accounted for. So today, as we reflect on the scripture readings, we have to put ourselves in their shoes, and think for a moment about the job of a shepherd.
A shepherd takes care to groom his sheep on a regular basis, making sure they are free of any contamination from the world. He personally leads them through the pastures, walking them wherever they go. And if one wanders off, he is sure to go find him, no matter the work involved. He then leads them back to the fold at night, and then lies with them to protect them from wolves. Indeed, the shepherd is responsible for every aspect of the sheep’s care and protection. His job is an important and all-encompassing one. We note this when we reflect on the state of the sheep themselves. They are animals that cannot care and protect themselves. They are completely dependent on their shepherd for their well-being.
Today, we are reminded throughout the readings that the Lord is our shepherd. Therefore, as Psalm 23 tells us, “There is nothing I shall want.” He provides for all of our needs. He loves and cares for each one of us in such a deep way that He is sure to give us what we need. He will lead us in the ways of righteousness, to protect us from the ways of the world. He is here for us, always.
We see that played out in both the first reading for today and the gospel. (more…)
Today’s readings remind us of our dependence on God. Like sheep with a shepherd, we cannot survive without Him. And, at the same time, we are reassured that as the Lord’s sheep, we shall want for nothing. The Lord provides for our every need — caring for us, protecting us, and leading us. He is here for us always, and He wants us to turn to Him. His love for us is boundless.
Recognizing this reality, we should feel strengthened and reassured, and we should be beyond grateful.
We are never alone. We are always cared for. We are loved beyond measure.
With that knowledge, each one of us ought to completely give ourselves to the Lord, surrendering to Him all that we are and all that we have, knowing it is He whom we live for. And when we do so, we are blessed beyond measure, and cared for in every single way.
There is less than a month to go before the Msgr. Thomas McGread Stewardship Conference August 1-2 at the Diocese of Wichita’s Spiritual Life Center in Wichita, Kansas. We still have a few spots available for this conference, and I invite you to sign up now before it’s too late.
For the past nine years, this conference has inspired and educated thousands of priests, religious, and lay Catholics, by sharing the remarkable stories of how developing the spirituality of stewardship has transformed the lives of parishioners as well as the life of the parish.
Msgr. Thomas McGread is often called the “Father of Stewardship” and was instrumental in the drafting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pastoral letter, Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response.
At this conference, you can hear the remarkable story of how stewardship transformed his parish — St. Francis of Assisi in Wichita — and how it has impacted other parishes across the country. The conference also will feature presentations by pastors and lay leaders from around the country that will share stories of how stewardship has become a way of life at their parish.
Time is running out, so register today. You may register online at the link above, or if you have any questions or would like more information, contact Shari Navarre at 888-822-1847, ext. 3702, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s readings continue the theme of prophecy that we focused on last week. God calls us to proclaim the good news to all the nations, to bring men to Him by our words and our deeds even though, as last week’s gospel reminds us, we are sure to face opposition.
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house” (Mk. 6:4).
But what this week’s readings emphasize for us is the fact that the Lord does not call us to carry out this mission and then simply leave us be. Rather, He equips us for the work, and He assists us as we do it.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as He chose us before the foundation of the world” (second reading).
This also brings to mind the quote, “God does not choose the ready; He makes ready the chosen.” (more…)
In today’s first reading, the prophet Amaziah explains, “I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The Lord took me from following the flock and said to me, “Go, and prophesy to the people Israel.”
God had a mission for Amaziah, and He called Him from his daily life to carry forth that mission.
What’s more, in the Gospel, we see Jesus commissioning the 12 apostles to preach the Gospel. He gives them the authority they need to do so, and sends them forth. And in the second reading, St. Paul praises the Lord “who blesses us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world.”
Like Amaziah and the 12 apostles, each one of us has been called to carry out a mission – to be a Christian disciple and proclaim the Gospel to the world in all we say and do. He has given us all that we need to do that. Every gift we have comes by way of gift from the Lord. It is our responsibility to make the choice to recognize those gifts and to use them for God’s purposes, to give glory to the Lord.
There is a famous quote that is quite adequate here: “God does not choose the ready; He makes ready the chosen.”
He has chosen us all for a very specific purpose. If we give ourselves to Him as His servants, He will make us ready.
Will you answer the call?