Ps 27:1, 4, 13-14
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John.
Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee.
A large crowd followed him,
because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.
Jesus went up on the mountain,
and there he sat down with his disciples.
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.”
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?”
Jesus said, “Have the people recline.”
Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.
So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them to those who were reclining,
and also as much of the fish as they wanted.
When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,
“Gather the fragments left over,
so that nothing will be wasted.”
So they collected them,
and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments
from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.
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 off
to make him king,
he withdrew again to the mountain alone.
Good News Reflection: Joy that lasts
In today’s first reading and our Gospel reading for today, we see two different sources of joy. In the Gospel, the people witnessed a miracle and got their bellies filled free of charge. They were so happy that they wanted to make Jesus their king and live like this all the time.
When he rejected their nomination, how long do you think their joy lasted? Certainly, some lost it by the time they arrived back home, because the walk was too hot or too long. Or they complained about how the fish was cooked or what kind of bread should have been served. Or when they got home, they had to deal with some jerk who’d never met Jesus.
In the scene from the Book of Acts, the apostles were joyful, too, but not because something good had happened. They were not even rejoicing over the fact that they had been released from prison. They were joyful because they were suffering! It thrilled them to be judged worthy of ill-treatment for their ministry.
Were they deranged? Were they masochists? Of course not. Then how could suffering give them joy?
Today’s responsorial Psalm holds the key: The Lord is our refuge. Joy that lasts comes from being able to snuggle in the love of the Lord. Joy that fades comes from relying on life’s circumstances. No miracle provides lasting joy, but when we gaze on the loveliness of the Lord — keeping our focus on him — our joy can continue forever. No matter what the circumstances, we can remain joyful if we remain aware that we are loved passionately by the Lord.
Instead of focusing on our troubles, we look at Jesus and take refuge in his love. When we allow evil to snatch our attention, we feel hopeless and angry. But when we refocus on Jesus, we can joyfully praise God for the goodness he will resurrect from our sufferings.
Granted, this is not easy; I struggle to stay focused on Jesus, too! Our normal reaction to anything that causes suffering is to complain about it. While we complain, we’re looking squarely at it. We cannot see God’s hand blessing us.
How do we look at and see an invisible God? By scouring through the scriptures to find the promises that relate to our situation. By reading the lives of saints to absorb their view of God. By asking others to point out what they can see of God’s hand in our troubles.
Anything we do that puts Christ into the center of our vision — listening to Christian music, attending Mass, or joining a small faith-sharing community — frees us to experience the joy that lasts forever.
Lord: I want You to be my joy that exceeds the circumstances I have to face in my everyday life. Amen.
© 2018 by Terry A. Modica