What are we hungry for?

In today’s Gospel, a crowd of people follows Jesus. They follow him because they have seen a miracle, when Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish. They want to see more. But Jesus challenges the people. They haven’t really understood the meaning of the sign that he gave them. We can eat until we are full, but we will get hungry again. Jesus offers us food that lasts forever; the Bread of Life that brings us eternal life. The Bread of Life is Jesus himself, present to us in the celebration of Mass. This is the challenge that Jesus presents to the crowd. What do they really want – food for this life, or food for eternal life?

Many of Jesus’ disciples found it impossible to accept this teaching. We will hear their arguments with him in the Gospels of the next few Sundays. For us, too, it may seem a hard teaching to understand and accept. But this is what our faith tells us. In the Eucharist, Jesus is really present to us. We receive him in the bread and wine; we receive him as food that nourishes our souls. Holy Communion is food for eternal life – God’s greatest gift to us. Jesus challenges us, as he challenged the crowds in his own time. What are we really hungry for?

Society of Saint Gregory Annual Summer School of liturgy and music

4 – 6 August, via Zoom. This year’s theme is ‘The God Who Speaks: Celebrating, living and sharing God’s Word’ The invited speakers, Sr. Margaret Atkins, Fleur Dorrell, Bob Hurd, Nicholas King SJ, David McLoughlin, Dan Schutte and Dr. Gemma Simmonds CJ, will explore all the different ways that God speaks to us. Bishop Peter Brignall, the initiator of ‘The God Who Speaks’, will introduce two days of prayer, contemplation, discussion and debate and there will be liturgies with music. Details and bookings at https://www.ssg.org.uk/summer-school-2021/

Jesus feeds the people

Today’s Gospel begins with a crowd. They have followed Jesus to the far side of the Sea of Galilee, to hear his teaching. Jesus knows that the people need to eat, and so he provides them with food. Five loaves and two fish, brought by a small boy, become enough to feed a crowd of five thousand people, through the miracle that Jesus works.

This Gospel reveals Jesus’ care for the people. He doesn’t leave them hungry – in fact, he provides an abundance of food, with twelve baskets of scraps left over. It must have been a remarkable occasion – a great picnic that people would remember for a long time afterwards. The people were united in sharing the food that Jesus had given them.

The miracle of the Feeding of the Five Thousand prefigures our celebration of the Eucharist. Jesus showed his love for the people by giving them food, and he shows his love for us by feeding us with his Body and Blood in Holy Communion. As he was generous in providing abundant food for the crowd, so he is generous in his love for us. Just as the five thousand were brought together by sharing the food that Jesus gave them, we should be brought together by our sharing in the celebration of Mass – this is another meaning of ‘communion.’ Our celebration doesn’t end when we leave the church – Jesus calls to remain in communion, by our care for each other.

God’s love for us is generous and not stingy. Jesus provided food for a great crowd of people, and he provides for us at Mass. And he calls to show the same generous love to one another.

Sunday 25th July

Fr Emmanuel Mbeh, a Mill Hill Missionary, will celebrate both Masses at St Cuthbert’s. Fr Emmanuel is not coming to make an appeal, but to tell us about the work of Missio and to thank you for your support. Please give him a warm welcome. Fr Emmanuel will also celebrate the 6:30pm Mass on Sunday 1st August.

Like sheep without a shepherd

Today’s Gospel begins with a sense of excitement. Last week, Jesus sent his twelve apostles out to preach, teach and heal the sick. Today, we see them return, eager to tell Jesus all that they have done. Their mission has been a success – there are crowds of people following Jesus, so many coming and going that the apostles don’t even have time to eat. Jesus’ first concern is for his apostles – they need to take time out and rest. But even that turns out to be impossible. Jesus and his disciples escape to a lonely place by boat, but the crowd follows them on foot!

When Jesus sees the crowd that has followed him, he doesn’t react with anger or annoyance. He takes pity on the people. He can see that they are lost and confused, ‘like sheep without a shepherd,’ so he takes time to teach them.

Many people today feel just as lost and confused. There are many ‘shepherds’ who will offer to lead us, but often they are preaching hatred and division. These false shepherds have no concern for the people, and are only pursuing their own interests, like the shepherds whom the prophet Jeremiah denounces in today’s First Reading. The people of Jesus’ time were drawn to him, because they saw his care and compassion for them. The people of our time, too, need to hear about the love of Jesus.

Take nothing for the journey

How do Jesus’ apostles feel, when he sends them out to preach? They haven’t known Jesus for very long. Probably, they don’t really understand him or his teaching yet. And now, Jesus is sending them out to become teachers themselves.

The disciples don’t travel alone; Jesus sends them out in pairs, so that they can support and help each other. But he tells them to travel light, without money, food or spare clothes. Wherever they go, they will have to rely on the kindness of strangers.

The apostles preached repentance – the change of heart that brings God’s forgiveness for sins – and they brought healing for the sick. Most of all, though, they would share with the people their own experience of meeting Jesus, and how he had changed their lives. They were witnesses to Jesus, bringing Good News.

Today, Jesus sends us out to witness to him. Like the twelve apostles, we are not alone – we are members of the Church. We may feel that we have nothing in our pockets; no learning or wisdom to give to others. But, like the apostles, we can talk about how we have met Jesus, and the difference that he has made to us. We can share with others the forgiveness and healing that we have received ourselves. That’s what Jesus asks of us; to share the Good News that we have received

Too big for his boots?

We’re not always ready to celebrate the success of others. Instead, we may be tempted to knock them down, with a comment like, ‘He’s got too big for his boots.’

In today’s Gospel, Jesus returns to his home town of Nazareth, and begins to teach in the synagogue. The reaction of the townspeople – Jesus’ neighbours – is striking. They don’t deny that Jesus is teaching with wisdom. They can’t deny the miracles that he has worked. And yet, they refuse to believe in him. He is just a working man, a carpenter, and his relatives still live in the town. Where do his power and wisdom come from? Who does he think he is?

Jesus is amazed at the people’s lack of faith, but he reminds them that the prophets were often rejected, as we see in today’s First Reading from the book of Ezekiel. If the prophet brings a message that challenges us, it’s easier to reject the messenger than to accept the challenge.

Jesus can work no miracles in his home town, because of his neighbours’ lack of faith. He is bringing Good News to his own people, but they don’t want to hear it. The story challenges us to look at our own prejudices. What might be preventing us from hearing the Good News and welcoming Christ into our lives?

Icons of the Northern Saints

An exhibition of icons of well-loved Northern saints from Anglo-Saxon to Elizabethan times.

The icons reflect people of faith from every walk of life – from housewives to kings, from hermits to bishops.  They were “written” by a group of keen amateur iconographers at the Oaklea Centre in Sunderland.  Icon workshops are held there every year and have attracted a number of enthusiastic followers.

The exhibition ends this Sunday 4th July in St Joseph’s Chapel, Ushaw. Free with entry pass.

A healing touch

In today’s Gospel, we hear two stories of healing. A girl only twelve years old – she’s about to become an adult, but she’s at the point of death – and an adult woman who has suffered for twelve years from a painful and debilitating condition. In each case, it is faith that opens the way for Jesus to heal them. The little girl’s father, Jairus, is an official of the synagogue; a man who holds an important position in society. But he sets aside his status and his dignity, and begs Jesus to come to his daughter, believing that he has power to make her well. The woman reaches out to touch Jesus’ cloak as he passes, believing that this will be enough to cure her – and she is proved right.

Their faith prompts Jesus’ care and compassion for them. The woman is told, ‘Your faith has healed you – go in peace.’ The young girl is brought back from death and returned to her parents. God’s will is for every one of us to be alive and healthy, as we hear in today’s First Reading from the book of Wisdom. 

Under the ritual rules of the Law, to touch a sick person, or a dead body, was to make yourself unclean. Jesus ignores such rules. The woman is healed by touching him, and he takes the young girl by the hand and restores her to life. We are all in need of Jesus’ healing touch, and all we have to do is reach out to him in faith.

Please Pray

Please pray for Rev Luke Wilkinson, who will be ordained a priest for our diocese this Tuesday, 29th June, at 6pm at St Mary’s Cathedral, Newcastle. Due to Covid restrictions, attendance at the Ordination Mass is by invitation only, but you can watch a live stream on the Cathedral’s YouTube channel. 

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