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A Scripture Reflection for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

by Stephen Bevans, SVD | July 28, 2018

A Scripture Reflection for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 29, 2018



First Reading: 2 Kings 4:42-44

Psalm 145:10-11, 15-16, 17-18

Second Reading: Ephesians 4:1-6

Gospel: John 6:1-15




Two words, I think, capture the message of today’s scripture readings: abundance and generosity. God lavishes us with abundance because God is generous. When we are generous we can expect abundance. This is, as it were, the law of the Reign of God, and we see it in action today.

First of all, God lavishes us with abundance because God is generous. In our first reading, it wasn’t enough just to feed the people. There was even food left over. There doesn’t seem to be any reason for it. It’s just the way God is. “They shall eat and there shall be some left over.”

This Old Testament story could very well have been the model for the miracle that Jesus performs in our gospel reading—the feeding of the “large crowd.” When all had had “more than they could eat,” the disciples collected twelve baskets of fragments from the feast. Last week we were “set up” for this gospel reading. We read in the gospel of Mark that Jesus and the disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee to get some quiet time after the disciples had come back from their tour of preaching, healing, and exorcising. They had tried to get away, but the crowd saw where they were going and got there before them. No matter. When Jesus saw the crowd his heart was moved to compassion, and so he generously began to “teach them many things,” and then he performs the miracle of the feeding of the crowds. Our gospel reading today switches to John’s version of the story, and we will continue to read from John for the next several weeks. But we shouldn’t forget that the abundance of the feeding of the crowd stems from Jesus’ generosity, that overflowing heart that saw the crowds as “sheep without a shepherd.” This is just the way God is. God is like Jesus. God lavishes us with abundance because God is generous.

But there is more in our readings today. They tell us as well that when we are generous we can expect abundance. Not material abundance. The readings don’t advocate a “health and wealth” gospel of prosperity. We’re talking here about spiritual abundance, the abundance of character. Elisha’s servant objected to giving the twenty barley loves to the crowd of 100, but when he did it the people experienced God’s abundance. John’s gospel contains the little detail of the young boy, who had five barley loaves and two fish, but he was willing to share them generously, and the crowd ate abundantly. When we are generous, wonderful things happen. This is the law of the Reign of God, the “paschal mystery”—“unless the grain of wheat die, it cannot yield abundant fruit” (Jn 12:24).

In the section from the letter to the Ephesians that we read today, Paul is calling the people to be generous, by urging them to “live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.” God has generously lavished forgiveness and blessing on the community after they have received the good news of Jesus. Now Paul is calling them to be generous in turn: in living humbly, and gently, patiently bearing with each other’s faults, working to be one in mind and heart and being at peace with one another. If they do that, they will live in the abundance of God’s love, which God always gives generously.

Perhaps as Catholics on Call we could also listen attentively to what Paul says, and recommit ourselves to living in a way that is “worthy of the call” we have received—our call to be ourselves, our call to be disciples of Jesus, our call to ministry. Perhaps today, recognizing once more God’s generosity that gives in such abundance, we could in turn recognize the need in our lives to be generous with ourselves—and so experience over and over again God’s abundance in our lives. Unlike Elisha’s servant, there is no need to be afraid. Like the young boy in the gospel, we can give what we have, despite how little it seems to be. Let’s be thankful for God’s generous abundance, and let’s open up to that abundance by being generous ourselves.


The above image is from the Public Domain.

Author information Stephen Bevans, SVD

Louis J. Luzbetak, SVD, Professor Emeritus of Mission and Culture
S.T.B., S.T.L., Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome; M.A., Ph.D., University of Notre Dame; Study: University of Cambridge

Steve Bevans is a priest in the missionary congregation of the Society of the Divine Word and Louis J. Luzbetak, SVD, Professor Emeritus of Mission and Culture.

After completing his Licentiate in Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1972, he served as a missionary to the Philippines until 1981. In 1986 he received a Ph.D. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame and has taught at CTU since that time, officially retiring from the faculty in 2015.

He is the author or co-author of six books and editor or co-editor of eleven, including Models of Contextual Theology (2002), Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today (2004), and An Introduction to Theology in Global Perspective (2009). In 2013, he edited A Century of Catholic Mission, and, in 2015, with Cathy Ross, Mission on the Road to Emmaus: Constants, Context, and Prophetic Dialogue.

He is a member of the World Council of Churches' Commission on World Mission and Evangelism.

Books written by Steve Bevans

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