Year B: 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: 2 Kings 4: 42-44
Today’s First Reading is from a section in the Second Book of Kings which records some of the miracles performed by Elisha when he succeeded Elijah as prophet. As this Reading is chosen to complement the Gospel, it is appropriate that Elisha’s insistence that a mere twenty loaves will be enough for a hundred people should have been chosen.
For many people in the world today, subsistence living has become alien. With ready access to supermarkets where food flows from the shelves, it is easy to forget that for most of human history and for many in the world today, the provision of food depends on the skill of the grower and the weather. If the harvest fails people go hungry. There may be food available - but the prices rise so high that it is beyond the reach of the poorest.
This gives people a sense of vulnerability - unsure what each year is going to bring - plenty or hunger. This greater awareness of their dependence on the cultivation of food makes people even more appreciative of it - and many cultures celebrate harvest with meals and prayers of thanksgiving.
The ability to feed a family on what seems too little is, then, a great gift - and when that little becomes almost nothing, the intervention of someone who gives you your fill with enough to spare is indeed miraculous.
For those of us in developed countries, it poses an awkward question - why, in a world where we have an over-abundance of food, do others go hungry? All sorts of reasons are put forward - and it is a complex issue - but it is a question to pose - and maybe look for an answer through Jesus’ and Elisha’s eyes. They saw people who were hungry and acted simply - but effectively - from their compassion: they broke bread and ate with them...
What does it mean for me?
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