The five loaves and two fishes (bottom), depicted on Moone High Cross, Ireland (10th century)

XVII Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 25, 2021
Homily Fr. Andrew O’Connor
Pastor St. Mary
28 Attorney Street
NYC 10002

For the next three weeks we will devote ourselves as a church to focus on the mystery of the
eucharist in the Gospel of John chapter six. We have interrupted Mark’s narrative of Jesus
developing and preparing his disciples for ministry because John institutes the eucharist at the
multiplication of the loaves and fish rather than at the Last Supper. The formation of the
mystery of church happens around the eucharist. This is John 6:1-15 in the book of the signs.
Two signs are mentioned: that of curing the sick which precipitated the sudden flocking. Jesus
looks up and there is an immense crowd. The other sign is that of feeding the crowd from the
gift from a boy of five barley loaves and two fish. Is there a connection?

What was the boy doing there with five loaves and two fish when apparently the crowd came
without food? If you will forgive the extrapolation I am going to call the boy “Joselito,” He is
probably 10 years old given carrying 5 barley loaves and 2 fish in a bag for any length of
distance. Could his grandmother have been one of those cured? She could be saying thank
you to Jesus for the gift of healing. As in the first reading from Kings the gift of first fruits is one
of thanksgiving. Uniting healing and feeding is the transformation of fate into providence. Fate
is the lot of the slave. We associate slavery with cheap labor. In the ancient world that was not
so. Slavery was a result of bad luck, a debt assumed after a crop failed is a typical reason to
enslave a debtor. Labor for food and the necessities of life is animal work, like oxen tied up to
revolve a millstone. It is unending and was to be separated from human work which had a
consummation and results in glory. This is still the case. Labor is burden and drudgery. Work
leads to achievement.

God’s providence filled the arms of Joselito with thanksgiving for God. Hidden in every church
assembly is that thanksgiving act. There is always someone who has been liberated from the
doom of fate by God who is in the midst of the faithful. Five thousand men that are named in
the gospel are five thousand families. It is Passover. Springtime. The grass is green and lush.

We should look to the sick in particular to regenerate our eucharist. Ask me to visit the sick that
you know. I will normally try and come every Thursday morning. Invariably there is a Joselito.
As apostles this the second sing we are to witness that of the sacrament. This gift of the bread
and the wine is broken by Christ on the cross and distributed as a sign that God’s mercy is
greater than our needs.