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:
There’s a line in the story from our first reading that does not make sense: They left rejoicing because they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of Jesus. How could anyone derive joy from being misjudged and dishonored? Even for Christ’s sake!
When I’m on trial, being judged by others, criticized, misunderstood, or rejected, and my reputation is under attack, I want to grumble about it (that’s an understatement). What if someone in a position of authority were to order me to stop distributing these Good News reflections? Well, I don’t think joy is what I’d be feeling.
The fact is, no matter where we live, we’re all on trial for our faith every day. Some of my readers live in countries where Christians are literally being persecuted like the first apostles. They face real danger if they’re caught reading this. However, who hasn’t been put on trial for their faith? Only those whose faith is so invisible that it has no impact.
We are whipped with words. We’re hauled into the court of people’s minds where we’re unfairly judged and prosecuted. We’re sentenced to a change of subject so that we cannot freely talk about Jesus. It happens when we speak up for children who are in danger of being aborted. It happens when we compassionately embrace homosexuals while promoting chaste living without sexual activity. It happens when we use the gifts and talents and education the Lord has given us when others think we’re not qualified.
During Lent of 2011, it happened to me when I spoke up about the Church’s teachings on Social Justice (also called the Church’s social teachings). I had no idea there are so many Catholics who think Social Justice is unchristian, far-left liberal, and New Age. Well, praise God for that bit of persecution, for it has awakened me to the need to provide more faith education about this very essential aspect of following Christ.
Think of any time when someone rejected you while you were doing what God called you to do. Did you feel full of joy — or angrily frustrated? So, how did the early apostles become joyful as they left the Sanhedrin?
The joy of persecution comes from being so in love with God that nothing else really matters. When we’re more in love with our reputations, the disapproval of others makes us miserable. Joy comes from making God our focus instead of what happens to us. And by keeping our eyes on Jesus, we remember that even our crosses become resurrections. Even our denied freedoms are new opportunities for divine intervention, because God cannot be stopped and his will cannot be deferred for long. That is a huge reason to feel joyful.
It’s not easy to keep our focus entirely on God. It takes great effort and continual, conscious decision. The more we work at it, the more we will enable our trust in God, and that’s when we experience amazing joy. With the Holy Spirit’s help, it’s not impossible at all. And if we feel even just a wee bit of joy, we can ask Jesus to multiply it and he will, just like he did with the bread and fish in today’s Gospel reading.
Beloved Jesus, I want to follow You beyond the signs You provide in my life. Take my constraints and transform them into a willingness to serve others. Amen.
© 2017 by Terry A. Modica