01Aug 01 August. Monday, Week 18

Saint Alphonsus Ligouri, optional memorial

1st Reading: Jeremiah 28:1-17

Jeremiah predicts the end of his people’s exile

In that same year, at the beginning of the reign of King Zedekiah of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, the prophet Hananiah son of Azzur, from Gibeon, spoke to me in the house of the Lord, in the presence of the priests and all the people, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord’s house, which King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon. I will also bring back to this place King Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim of Judah, and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon, says the Lord, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.”

Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord; and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord fulfill the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles. But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.”

Then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, and broke it. And Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, “Thus says the Lord: This is how I will break the yoke of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon from the neck of all the nations within two years.” At this, the prophet Jeremiah went his way.

Some time after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “Go, tell Hananah, Thus says the Lord: You have broken wooden bars only to forge iron bars in place of them! For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have put an iron yoke on the neck of all these nations so that they may serve King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and they shall indeed serve him; I have even given him the wild animals.” And the prophet Jeremiah said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the Lord: I am going to send you off the face of the earth. Within this year you will be dead, because you have spoken rebellion against the Lord.” In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died.

Gospel: Matthew 14:13-21

Out of compassion, Jesus cures the sick and multiplies food in a deserted place

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.

When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.  When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”  Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”  They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”  And he said, “Bring them here to me.”  Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.  And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.  And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.



Not the easy way out

When we see religious leaders in disagreement and hear of Jesus’ being mistaken for a ghost, how can we know whose word is from God? People must have shaken their heads in dismay at the clash between the official prophet, Hananiah, and the more charismatic Jeremiah, when Hananiah took the threatening yoke off the neck of the Jeremiah and broke it. Scholars can assure us that Jeremiah truly spoke the word of God, while Hananiah was a false prophet. Back then, however, the common folk saw it as a struggle of prophet against prophet. The quarrel between Jeremiah and Hananiah was public and for a time Jeremiah was silently embarrassed, tempted to give up, not knowing what answer to give Hananiah. Eventually he was vindicated, but in the meanwhile he had to put his faith in God, strengthen his conscience and pray for wisdom.

Jesus’ disciples too were tempted to follow the easier way out of trouble. We read how his disciples came to him with the suggestion, “This is a deserted place and it is already late. Dismiss the crowds so that they may go to the villages and buy some food for themselves.” Whenever we ourselves are faced with difficulty, our first response should not be dictated by an easy way out, nor by our command of financial or other resources, but by loving, tender compassion and personal care. In this part of our heart we hear God’s word. At such times we too like Peter should cry out, “Lord, save me!”

Help them or send them away

Different people react in different ways to the same situation. In the gospel today, there is quite a difference between the reaction of Jesus and the reaction of the disciples to the sight of a large hungry crowd in the wilderness. (It’s much the same with regard to the refugee crisis; people differ greatly about what to do with them.) The disciples wanted Jesus to send the crowd away. Jesus wanted his disciples to make some effort to feed the crowd. “Give them something to eat yourselves,” he said. Even though they protested that they would not be able to find enough food to feed the crowd, Jesus persisted, and got them to bring the little food they could find to him. Then with that little, with those few resources, the Lord fed the crowd with the help of his disciples. The gospel suggests that the Lord will always encourage us to take on some service of others, even when we may feel that our resources are inadequate. If we are generous with those few resources, the Lord will then work with them and through them in ways that will surprise us. The Lord can work wonders through the very ordinary and sometimes unpromising looking resources and gifts that we possess. We have to do our bit, like the disciples in the gospel, but the Lord always does much more. Yet, if we are not willing to do the little we can with what we have, the Lord’s own capacity for ministry to others is curtailed. The Lord needs our resources, small and inadequate at they may seem to continue his good work among us and in the world. [MH]

St Alphonsus Ligouri, bishop and doctor of the Church.

Alphonsus (1696-1787) from Marianella near Naples studied law and practiced as a lawyer until 1723, when he began studying for the priesthood.
After ordination at the age of 30 he lived his first years as a priest working with the homeless youth of Naples. His sermons were very effective at converting people who were alienated from their faith. In 1732 he founded the Redemptorists, a congregation to preach principally in the slums of cities and other poor places. Despite his resistence, was made bishop of Palermo at the age of 66. He wrote many works on moral theology and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1871.

2 Responses

  1. Junne A. Morales

    The gospel reading today (August 1, 2016)did not match the two messages after it. The correct gospel reading should have been Matthew 14:13-21. Probably an oversight!

  2. Pat Rogers

    Thanks, Junne, for bringing that error to my attention. As you can now see, I’ve corrected it accordingly. And I welcome any of our other readers to notify me of such oversights in the future.

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