3 August 2014

posted 1 Aug 2014, 07:42 by C S Paul

3 August 2014

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Eigth Sunday after Pentecost

Gospel Reading for this Sunday - Mark 8:1-10
New King James Version (NKJV)

1 In those days, the multitude being very great and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said to them, 

“I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. 

3  And if I send them away hungry to their own houses, they will faint on the way; for some of them have come from afar.”

Then His disciples answered Him, “How can one satisfy these people with bread here in the wilderness?”

He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven.”

So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and they set them before the multitude.

They also had a few small fish; and having blessed them, He said to set them also before them. 

So they ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets of leftover fragments. 

Now those who had eaten were about four thousand. And He sent them away, 

10 immediately got into the boat with His disciples, and came to the region of Dalmanutha.

Alternate Reading - John 6:47-59New King James Version (NKJV)

47 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me[a] has everlasting life. 

48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 

50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 

51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”

52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”

53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.

54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed,[b] and My blood is drink indeed. 

56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 

57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 

58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”

59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

Devotional Thoughts Based on Mark 8:1-10

Jesus Expands Our Small Vision to His Limitless Vision

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Earlier I explained that we interrupt our reading of Mark for six Sundays to read John 6 - the Eucharistic Chapter - and explained that the multiplication of the loaves and fish anticipates the miracle of the Eucharist

Can you imagine how the disciples must have felt when Jesus gave the instruction for the people to sit down in the Gospel today? (John 6:10) Did they feel like saying, "Lord healing the sick is one thing but feeding five thousand men and several thousand women and children with just five loaves and two fish is asking for the impossible?" Did they think that if Jesus failed to feed the crowds they would all look like fools? We can see that they obviously had worries because Andrew said to Jesus, "what is five loaves and two fish between so many?" (John 6:9) Did they feel like saying to Jesus, "Jesus, don’t be stupid." The disciples had one vision of the situation and Jesus had a different vision of the situation. The disciples were putting a limit on what to expect, but Jesus had no limits. There is a tension between the expectation of the disciples and the expectation of Jesus. The disciples’ vision was small but the vision of Jesus was limitless.

It hasn’t changed much since then. Our vision and expectations are often small but Jesus’ vision and expectations for us are without limits. And if we try to expand our vision to be more like the vision of Jesus the world says to us, "You are stupid." The world says "you are stupid to want to become a priest, you are stupid to want to become a nun, you are stupid to have one more child, you are stupid to join a prayer group, you are stupid to spend so much time in prayer." And the world is right according to its own standards and vision, but the vision and standards of the western world are very often not the vision of Jesus. According to the mind of the world, following Jesus is irrational. So to follow Jesus in our world now you have to lose something; maybe you have to lose some respect for yourself to follow Jesus now. When Mary said "Yes" to the angel Gabriel she lost respect for herself; in the eyes of the world she was a loser, but in fact she became the winner. If we decide not to lose something for Jesus and follow the ways of the world, then we will really end up losers in the end.

In our Gospel Jesus is not the only one with a big vision. The other person with a big vision is the small boy who had the loaves and fish. The thinking of the world now is, "What is in it for me?" or "What will I get out of it?" or "The more I receive the more I will be blessed." That is the attitude which is destroying our western society. If the small boy had that attitude and did not give his five loaves and two fish to Jesus there would have been no miracle. But because of his generosity a great miracle took place. That little boy shows us that when we give we receive. The vision of the world is often small and narrow but the vision of Jesus is without limits.

In the very early days after Pentecost there was a cripple begging at one of the entrances to the Temple in Jerusalem (Acts 3). When he saw Peter and John going into the Temple he begged from them. Peter and John said, "Look at us." The cripple was then obviously hoping to get some money from them. Peter said, "I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!" (Acts 3:6) Then Peter took him by the hand and helped him up. Instantly his feet and ankles became firm, and he jumped up and praised God. That beggar had a small vision for himself but Peter had a wonderful vision of where his life should be. In a sense we could say that the cripple was asking for pennies but God was offering him millions. Are you putting limits on yourself while God has a more wonderful vision for you?

As Paul preached the Gospel he encountered a similar problem. People had a narrow vision of Paul and his ministry but Paul’s vision was wide. This is what he wrote in 2 Cor 6:8-10,

"taken for imposters and yet we are genuine…said to be dying and yet we are here alive, scourged but not executed; in pain yet always full of joy; poor and making many people rich; having nothing and yet owning everything."

We can ask ourselves, "What is our vision of ourselves and the world?" Do we take our vision of ourselves from the world or from Jesus? God help us if we take our vision of ourselves from the world. The only way to see yourself is to see yourself as Jesus sees you.

The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish was preparing for an even greater miracle where Jesus would expand our vision even more. The multiplication of the loaves and fish was preparing for the miracle of the Eucharist. To human eyes in the Eucharist one sees bread and wine but with the eyes of faith we see the Body and Blood of Jesus. Again according to the world it is irrational and stupid to believe in transubstantiation, that the bread really changes into the body of Jesus and the wine really changes into the blood of Jesus. But following Jesus does not entail looking at Jesus with the vision of the world. Following Jesus means looking at Jesus with the eyes of faith, with the faith of Mary who accepted the impossible from the angel Gabriel and responded, "Let it be done to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38) We do not allow our vision of ourselves to be tainted and contaminated by the world but we take our vision of ourselves and our possibilities from Jesus.

Sermon based on Gospel Reading : St. John 6:47-59

I am the Bread of Life

by Rev. Fr. Mammen Mathew, Houston, Texas

Jesus is the Bread of our Spiritual Life

He gave his spiritual body in the form of physical bread and gave His life giving blood in the form of wine.

God the Father gave the Israelites Manna during their journey to the Promised Land in the desert to nourish their physical body. Manna was perishable, but it was the foreshadow of the non-perishable food of God from Heaven to come. This food of Jesus is for everlasting life. When we receive Jesus’ body and blood, our perishable body gets everlasting life and resurrection. Our body becomes His. His everlasting blood flows through our spiritual veins.

This heavenly body came to us through St. Mary. The Holy Spirit made visible the invisible God, the second person in the Trinity, to us as a human being. The Word became flesh so that we can see, hear, feel, and believe. The Father sent His only begotten Son to this world to save the world, and show us the path to the Father. Like a farmer Gabriel sowed God’s seed in the womb of St. Mary, Mary received that seed like a good ground of earth. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary brought the Son to the world. The Son took all the sins of the world on Himself, and sacrificed His body to the Father as atonement for us. He broke his body and shed his blood for the world to receive as life giving food. He wanted us to partake that food as often as possible. He instituted the Holy Eucharist on the day of Passover and wanted us to continue to celebrate that feast till His second coming. He wanted us to participate in that feast whenever we gather to worship or have fellowship. During our heavenly pilgrimage, He wanted us to refresh and refill from his body and blood as often as possible.

His body and blood nourishes our weary body, mind and soul.

It refreshes us and strengthens us.

It gives us peace, comfort and joy.

It takes away our fear, worries, sorrow and tears.

It gives new direction and hope in our journey.

Partaking His body and blood removes our emptiness and unworthiness.

It equips us with God’s strength, grace, and protection.

All these benefits we will only receive if we truly believe in His words and accept them as He meant. When we come to Him in His holy sanctuary with humility, brokenness, and repentance, and faithfully receive the Holy Eucharist as His true Body and Blood, we will benefit all those things that are mentioned above.

Jesus wants us to be partakers of His body and blood, not as on-lookers. Those who participate in consuming them with very good preparation and full faith will get everlasting life as He had promised.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us receive Him with full faith, with utmost preparation, and partake in the Heavenly feast every time, when we participate in the Holy Eucharist. Jesus is inviting everyone on this planet earth to join in His heavenly banquet. Let us join Him every Sunday and on all festive occasions to eat and drink from His table for everlasting life.

Note: This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.