You can imagine how difficult it was for the Jewish people at the time of Jesus to come to terms with his teaching on the Eucharist. The words he uses as recorded in the Gospel of John must have sounded incredible to them, ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’
Today in our liturgy we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. While this doctrine was only formally defined by Pope Pius XII in 1950 it has been the constant belief of Catholics going back in antiquity.
Jesus continues his teaching on the Eucharist in the extract from John’s Gospel chosen for this Sunday. We are also given for our reflection the account of how the angel fed the Prophet Elijah with bread strengthening him for his long journey from Mount Carmel to Mount Sinai. We see this as another prefigurement of the Eucharist.
Last Sunday in our Gospel reading we heard about the Feeding of the Five Thousand and we came to the conclusion that it is a miracle which is closely linked to the Eucharist. After the people were fed Jesus withdrew from them to the hills because he realised that they would want to make him King even though his time was not yet ready.
The Gospel assigned to this Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time gives us an account of one of the greatest of all the miracles, namely the Feeding of the Multitude. This miracle is very well attested to in the Gospels and occurs no less than six times. The accounts of the Feeding of the Five Thousand occurs in all four of the Gospels with many of the details being exactly the same such as the fact that it involved five loaves and two fish.
In our first reading we have one of the great prophecies of the Old Testament. It is a prophecy with many aspects. Jeremiah speaks these words in the midst of one of the most terrible events to affect the People of Israel –the Babylonian captivity.
We hear in this Sunday’s Gospel how Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs to proclaim the Gospel. There are similar accounts in Matthew and Luke which have a bit more detail. But here we are presented with Mark’s typically more compressed and succinct account of the event.
We don’t often observe Jesus being disempowered and perhaps this is the only incident of this kind we find in the Gospels. It seems that because of the people’s lack of faith he could perform no miracle in his own home town. This is surprising because we usually think of Jesus as being all-powerful and capable of doing anything.
The two miracles performed in today’s extract from St Mark’s Gospel both involve women, one a little girl and the other a mature woman suffering from a haemorrhage. Actually, there are only four healings of women recorded in the Gospel, these two together with Peter’s Mother in Law and the woman bent double, The first three of these miracles are recorded in all three of the Synoptic Gospels and the last only in St Luke.
Today we celebrate the Birth of John the Baptist; it is a midsummer feast just as the Birth of Christ is a midwinter feast, John being born six months before Jesus