When “where” and “there” are persons, not locations

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XVII-B in Ordinary Time, 25 July 2021
2 Kings 4:42-44 ><]]]]*> Ephesians 4:1-6 ><]]]]*> John 6:1-15
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, Batanes after a storm, 2018.

Beginning today until August 22, 2021, our Sunday gospel will be from the sixth chapter of John who continues last week’s scene of the great crowd following Jesus and his disciples to a deserted place in order to rest after returning from their first mission.

We were told by Mark how Jesus was “moved with pity” upon seeing the people who were “like sheep without a shepherd” that he taught them with so many things (Mk.6:34); after teaching them, Jesus fed them – about 5000 men excluding children and women – from just five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish with a lot of leftovers gathered that filled 12 wicker baskets!

It is a very beautiful story found in all four gospel accounts but it is only in John’s gospel where we are presented with a more complete and detailed story of the event followed by Jesus Christ’s “bread of life discourse” at Capernaum. Let us focus at the conversations among Jesus, Philip, and Andrew before the miracle where they used the demonstrative pronouns “where” and “there” that indicate deeper meanings.

The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little bit.” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”

John 6:4-9
Photo from iStock/Studio-Annika.

When all directions point to Jesus – but we miss!

While praying over today’s gospel, one song kept playing in my mind, the Beatles’ 1966 classic love song by Paul McCartney, Here, There and Everywhere. It is a very lovely music, so unique in many aspects that it is also McCartney’s most favorite as a member of the Fab Four.

What struck me with this Beatles hit are the demonstrative pronouns here, there and everywhere used not to point at directions but to a person, the girlfriend of McCartney at that time he so loved who would also be his Here, There and Everywhere!

To lead a better life, I need my love to be here
Here, making each day of the year
Changing my life with a wave of her hand
Nobody can deny that there's something there

There, running my hands through her hair
Both of us thinking how good it can be
Someone is speaking
But she doesn't know he's there

The same is so true with Jesus today asking Philip Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”

Jesus was not asking for a store in that deserted place to buy and get food for the people. John tells us that Jesus said this to test Philip because “he himself knew what he was going to do”. He wanted Philip to look deeper, to see beyond places and things even if his answer was correct, that “two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little bit.”

When odds are against us, when things are beyond us and humanly impossible, where do we go to?

Of course, we go to God!

Where else do we go when we are in deep or great troubles?

We go to prayers, we go to church, we go to the prayer room or Adoration Chapel, or wherever there is peace and silence where we can be with God.

When this pandemic started, where did we go during lockdown? To God with our online Masses at home, daily praying of the Rosary with the whole family. But when the quarantines were eased, we suddenly forgot God, regarding every where as merely a place, a location.

Every where is where God is, where Jesus is!

From Facebook, May 2020.

We now come to that second demonstrative pronoun in the same scene before the miraculous feeding of five thousand said by Simon Peter’s brother Andrew who told Jesus, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”

How unfair that the boy who actually had Jesus working on his miraculous feeding of the crowd with those five barley loaves and two fish he had given was merely referred by Andrew as there or here!

See how Andrew did not bother to ask the boy’s name because during that time, any male kid had no any significance at all except by the time they reached 13 years of age for the bar mitzvah, when boys begin to read the Torah. In fact, John noted in this narrative how the children and women were not even counted to show their grave error at that time of giving importance only to men.

How sad the same thing continues to our own time when we are taken for granted as a person, reduced to mere statistics, to mere numbers, to there and here!

Despite our insistence on the use of inclusive terms for all, it seems that the more we have actually degraded the human person into objects as we personified objects. Listen to commercials and newscasts to realize what I mean: food is described as “masarap siya” while typhoon is referred to as “siya ay lalabas ng Philippine Area of Responsibility” while persons are made into objects like handsome men called “yummy” or “delicious”. No wonder, people have become like food, good only when young and fresh but when old, discarded like trash! Sometimes, people are labelled like ice cream as “flavor of the month” or “all-time favorite” when rich and famous while ordinary folks are called “dirty ice cream”.

There is always a person to be respected and recognized in every here and there!

Let us heed St. Paul in the second reading telling us “to live in a manner worthy of the call” we have received as beloved children of God “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” (cf. Eph. 4:1-3).

How sad that we cannot even look at one another as a brother and a sister, even in our own family circles because we are so focused on the bread, that is, the money and wealth we could get for ourselves. And that is the great irony in this scene: the boy was willing to let go of his five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish yet Andrew did not notice at all the face, the personhood of the boy so kind to share what he had, thinking more of others than himself!

What a tragedy in our time, in our own family and circle of friends, at work and in school, even in our parish community when some people would give more value to things than persons, who would rather maintain or keep their honor and dignity at the expense of others.

Photo by Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, January 2020, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan.

When the “where” and “there” of Jesus meet on the Cross

This story of the multiplication of bread occupies an exceptional place in all four gospels. However, it was only John who added a long discourse preached by Jesus at Capernaum after this event to reveal its full meaning.

For John, the multiplication of bread is more than a miracle but a sign, a revelation of supernatural power above the ordinary pointing to Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God who is the bread from heaven who had come down to nourish us in this journey of life to eternity like during the time of Moses in the wilderness. Or like Elisha in the first reading, Jesus multiplied the loaves of bread to satisfy the hunger of not just 100 people but over 5000 with leftovers of 12 wicker baskets.

Photo by author, March 2020.

We are reminded of other instances in the Old Testament like the Jewish feast of Passover as backgrounds of this sign by Jesus in the deserted place as a prelude to the sign of the Holy Eucharist he instituted on Holy Thursday that we celebrate daily especially on Sundays as one body, one family. This in turn will reach its highest point on Good Friday as the ultimate sign Jesus Christ’s loving presence when his being the “where” and “there” of God would be revealed in the final sign of the Crucifixion that many would still miss to recognize.

That is why in the next four weeks, we shall hear John narrating to us the discourse by Jesus to explain the full meaning of this multiplication of bread in that deserted place.

When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him 0ff to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

John 6:14-15

Let us “capture” Jesus in the Holy Communion of the Mass later when the priest holds high the Body of Christ saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”

Here in the Mass, it is very clear this is where Jesus is, where we get the real food to eat. Tell it to everyone, point unto Jesus, there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world like John the Baptist. Most of all, it is in the the Holy Mass where Jesus is present here, there, and everywhere – in his words proclaimed, Body and Blood shared, and with everyone celebrating!

Have a blessed week! Keep safe and stay dry. Amen.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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