There are two parts to our Gospel reading this Sunday. The first part is another prediction by Jesus of his passion and death. The disciples do not understand what he is saying and so simply ignore him. This leads to the second half of the Gospel reading in which we find the disciples squabbling among themselves as to which of them is the greatest. Jesus stops them and gives them the example of little children for them to emulate.
There are high points and low points in everyone’s life. We are all aware of this and if we take a look at ourselves we will surely be able to recall extremely difficult times as well as those intense moments of exhilaration. In the case of Peter, we see here in this Gospel extract a high point when he declares his faith in Jesus as the Messiah and then immediately afterwards a very low point when Jesus says to him, ‘Get behind me Satan!’
In our first reading today, we are given an explicit prophesy from the Book of Isaiah about the long-expected Messiah. We are told that one of the signs by which we will be able to recognise the true Messiah is that he will be able to make the deaf hear and the dumb speak.
We should regard the readings today as an extended meditation on the role of law in our lives. We are talking of course of religious laws not secular ones.
The Gospel text for today is the last of a series taken from the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John. We are in the Year of Mark but these last five Sundays are devoted to the Gospel of John. The editors of the Lectionary obviously think that St Mark’s account of the life of Christ needs some supplementing.
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.