BREAD AS A GIFT
One associates bread with the idea of “earning bread.” And it is not bad because there is “earned” bread, that is, the bread that we earn through the effort of sowing, cultivating, harvesting, kneading, baking. But not all bread is effort; there is bread that is a gift; bread that reminds us that deep down everything is a gift, even the effort itself.
In fact, bread is above all the symbol of sustenance for life. But isn’t life itself a gift? That is to say: what have we done to deserve to exist? What did we give in return so that we could be given life in justice? And if beginning to live was a gift and a pure gift, then, strictly speaking, what can there be in life that does not radically have the status of gift and gift? Even the very forces with which we strive exist because we exist, and that is always a gift!
Take nothing for granted
This essential character of life as a “continuing gift” is easily forgotten. Soon one gets used to the fact that things “must be” in a certain way and “have to be.” We take them for granted. They become part of the inventory of life and we consider them as acquired rights. In this category are the laws of nature, the stability and security of life in society and health, when one has it and enjoys it.
It is at this point where contradictions and especially unforeseen events change the scene for us. An accident, or simply a circumstance in which we find ourselves without those resources that we already considered “due” force us to rethink life. Usually, the first reaction is immature and whiny, like Israel in the desert.
In turn, God s response, when it comes in this context of uncertainty and precariousness, takes on a new meaning because it is a reminder that everything comes from Him including our own existence.
The Gift and the Donor
The bread that comes as a gift, the “Bread from Heaven” is Christ. That expression indicates several things. For now, it implies that He is the great reminder of the plan and the initial conditions, those of creation. Therefore, it is a living teaching: salvation is free, it is by grace, because existence itself is already a “grace,” it is already a gift. And both gifts, that of existing and that of being saved, have come to us through Christ.
On the other hand, the Bread from Heaven has not fallen alone, nor has it fallen for its own sake. The Bread of Heaven has been given and every recipient of this gift has to wonder who the donor is. The donor, as Christ explains, is God our Father. To receive Christ as a gift is to receive the Father as a donor. And to receive the Father as a donor is to admit that oneself is a gift, in the image of Christ.
Fr. Nelson Medina, O.P.
LOAVES AND PROPHETS
There is an obvious link between the first reading and the gospel: in both cases it is about the multiplication of loaves. There is also another, deeper connection: Elisha is a prophet and Jesus, after feeding the multitude, is called the prophet who had to come into the world.
And there is still another detail in common: it is the word of Elisha that performs the miracle, and that is why the distribution of the bread itself is entrusted to a servant; analogously, it is the word of Jesus that performs the miracle, and the distribution is entrusted to the apostles. This distance between the realization of the miracle and the material distribution of food comes to underline in both cases that it is the power of the word, coming from God, who performs the miracle, which ebbs into what has already been said: we are facing the gestures of prophets, whose proper ministry is preaching, the Word.
Eloquence of leftovers
Perhaps in this miracle we admire the production of a new reality, that is, of new loaves. But it is likely that the emphasis should be placed elsewhere, because if the Word is so important in both cases it will not be so that we stay looking at bread.
To find this meaning, it may be useful to note that both Elisha and Jesus are aware of leftovers, that is, that there are or will be leftovers. Our Lord explicitly asks that they be collected. Why? It can be assumed that it is as a mark of appreciation for human food, or of respect for the poor who lack that bread, but most likely there is a deeper meaning here. Leftovers are an unequivocal sign of satiety and also an eloquent sign of abundance. The prophet is announcing that when the Word is believed, God is able to satisfy everyone with abundance that exceeds all our calculations.
The language of abundance contrasts with the usual human way of reasoning. When you think a lot about the money you have saved or the food you keep in your pantry, you almost always feel that you will not be able to afford it. God reasons otherwise. God thinks from the power of love and power of creation that is his own. If our pettiness announces how limited we are, his largeness proclaims that he has no limits.
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Homily)
I read these readings several times one evening hoping for some “enlightenment” from God. I’ve got to tell you nothing was coming! Crickets is the word I hear floating around these days. I thought “Maybe I’ll just rest a while like Jesus and His Apostles did after their long week of preaching and healing.” I turned on the television to a Western Movie. The name of the movie was “Silverado”. It’s the story of four good guys, who mix it up with an evil sheriff and his evil deputies. Of course, the sheriff is protecting the evil rancher who illegally acquired one of the good guys’ family’s farm. The rancher’s men have kidnapped the nephew of two of the good guys, and the nephew is being held at the ranch. The big finale of the movie is that the good guys join forces to rescue the boy and then rid the town of the evil rancher, evil sheriff and evil deputies. It is a classic good guy versus bad guy, good versus evil movie.
The next day, I’m back to the readings and I discover there’s a bit of Silverado going on here. Picture this: God and Jeremiah are teaming up to confront the elders of the church, who are not acting responsibly? towards those God has given them. For sure, the elders know what they are supposed to do and how they are supposed to act, but many want to be seen and treated as dignitaries. They walk around with “Holier than Thou attitudes.” They impose strict rules on those they are supposed to lead, but they don’t follow those same rules themselves. If you listen closely, you can almost hear Jeremiah, in a west Texas drawl say: “Boys, you’ve scattered the sheep, I’m going to have to run you out of town.”
Then, along comes Jesus and his apostles in the Gospel. They are the good guys who travel from town to town, village to village doing good works and preaching the gospel? They’re running sin and evil out of town. Jesus rebukes an evil spirit on a naked man in a cemetery and the evil spirit leaves the man. A woman touches the hem of His garment and is healed from years of hemorrhages. A little girl is not dead, but asleep after Jesus tells her “Little girl, I say arise!” Jesus is “the” good shepherd, the righteous shoot of David, and He and his apostles will do what is right and just, and because of them many will be saved. Today, you and I are living our own Silverado. We are called to rid our towns and villages of sin and evil. We do this by our actions when we: show love to the unloved. feed the hungry. fight injustice and prejudices. share the love of Jesus with others. All the while we have to guard ourselves that we are never anything more than a humble servant of God.
From time to time, we need to rest and look inward to see where we are in the grand scheme of things. Picture a sliding scale with the icon of a weed on one end and seeds on the other. Somewhere between the weeds and the seeds we find ourselves. Though we start out as weeds, we should always strive too constantly plant seeds that lead to the Good Shepherd. We trust God, and have faith that even in our weaknesses God will seek us out whether we are near or far from him. In his great love and mercy, God has sent us a good shepherd who will provide for us now and forever if we but turn to him. Good versus evil. It’s all around us. We see it every day. If we but pay attention to the shepherd, He will teach us many things and He will bring us together one people, gathered in love. And then, at the end of our days The Good Shepherd will ride His white horse into town and say to us: “Well done my good and faithful servant enter into the joy of your master.”
COME TO A DESERTED PLACE
AND REST A WHILE
From the beginning of his public life Jesus chose certain men, twelve in number, to be with him and to participate in his mission. He gives the Twelve a share in his authority and ‘sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal.” They remain associated forever with Christ’s kingdom, for through them he directs the Church. He said to them: As my Father appointed a kingdom for me, so do I appoint for you that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (CCC 551). We read in the Gospel last Sunday that the twelve Apostles were sent out in twos by Jesus to go out and preach the word of God to the people. In today’s Gospel, they returned from their mission and gathered around Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So, they went off in the boat and went to rest a while in a deserted place (Mk 6:31-32).
Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve; Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Our Lord then declared to him: ” You are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” Christ, the “living Stone”, thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakeable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it. Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The “power of the keys” designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: “Feed my sheep.”
The power to “bind and loose” connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgements, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and in particular; through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom (CCC 552-553).
May the Holy spirit inspire us and help us to believe the teachings of the Catholic Church and serve God faithfully so that when we die, we see God and live with God and the Angels and Saints for ever and ever Amen.
Fr. Clement Uchendu C.S.Sp., PhD.
To be a prophet is not always a nice role in life! Today we hear the Prophet Amos telling others that he is not a prophet nor does he belong to a company of prophets. We can understand the being a prophet had become a job in his time, and perhaps a well-paying job. People were willing to sign up to this kind of work of being a prophet.
Amos wants us to know that he is called by God to prophesy. He has not chosen to be a prophet. Instead, God has placed this terrible duty on him and he would rather not do it. There are always at least three elements in being a prophet: this inner call which must be from God and not just some kind of emotional or mental problem, ultimate acceptance by those who hear and can realize that the prophet speaks the truth from God and then finally the confirmation of history that what was prophesied was true.
The Gospel teaching today comes from the same type of prophetic teaching. The basic lesson is that if people don’t want to hear what you have to say from God, then move on to those who are interested. How different this is from so many modern-day prophets who become aggressive in telling others that they must listen!
So much of what is taught today in our Catholic Church is surely prophetic in the sense of proclaiming the truth, of proclaiming God’s word in Scripture, of proclaiming how God has worked in Scripture and in His Church. Proclaiming these truths is less and less accepted by civil society. Even those who claim to be members of the Church do not want to hear clear teachings proclaimed.
Many great Catholic teachers have been silenced in history and had the humility to accept such silencing because they believed that God’s truth was stronger than any silence and would ultimately prevail. Today there is almost a belief that the one who shouts the loudest has the truth or the one who is most popular has the truth.
We have many conflicting voices in our modern world, many of them claiming to show that God wants us to walk in entirely new directions. We Catholics have always accepted and believed in a teaching authority within the Church. That teaching authority today is a prophetic voice in the midst of chaos and confusion. Because that teaching authority is so clear, the forces of modern society are working with great efforts to destroy any acceptance of teaching authority within our Catholic Church.
Perhaps for all of us, the basic lesson of today’s readings is that in Christ Jesus we also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of salvation, have believed in Him. Once we have faith in the Lord Jesus, we begin to work at a different level of listening. We must listen first to revealed Scripture, not to the demands of the modern age. We must listen to the Church and not let the scandals and sins of people in the Church pull us away from the truth proclaimed in the Church. We must listen to the authentic teachers in the Church: The Pope and the Bishops and the lay people in union with them.
Not all who claim to be prophets are the prophets of God. Not all who come preaching modern words should be accepted into our homes. Let us listen with discerning minds and hearts. Let us walk with our Lord and with His Church, knowing that in Jesus and His Church are the words of everlasting life.
Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB
JESUS IN NAZARETH
Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod (Mt 2: 1). When King Herod wanted to kill him, his mother Mary and Joseph took him and ran to Egypt for refuge (Mt 2:13). When they returned from Egypt, Archelaus, the Son of King Herod was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod. Joseph was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee and went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth (Mt 2:22-23). Jesus was then brought up in Nazareth of Galilee. When he started his ministry he went around the city of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people. His fame spread to Syria, and they brought to him all who were sick with various diseases and racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics, and he cured them. A great crowd from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan followed him (Mt 4:23- 25)
In those days, he came to the town of Nazareth where he was brought up and entered the Synagogue on a Sabbath day and began to teach but the people did not receive him. They rejected him saying: Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house” (Mk 6:1-4). The Rejection of Jesus in Nazareth is a big error. It is a misfired shot. Jesus is the Messiah and Savior of humanity (Is 7:14; Mt 1:23; k 1:26 – 37). Another observation here is that some people, especially our protestant brothers and sisters often misunderstand the above text and claim that the Blessed Virgin Mary has other children outside Jesus. This claim is not true. The fact is that the deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God who become a human person. In fact, Christ’s birth “did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it,” and so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, that is: the “Ever-virgin”. Concerning the brothers and sisters of Jesus mentioned in the Bible (Mk 6:3), the Church, however, has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact, James and Joseph, “brothers of Jesus”, are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom Saint Matthew significantly calls “the other Mary” (Mt 13:55; 28:1; Mt 27:56.) They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression. Jesus is Mary’s only son, but her spiritual motherhood extends to all men and women whom indeed his Son came to save. The Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the first-born among many brothers and sisters, that is, the faithful in whose generation and formation she co-operates with a mother’s love”(CCC 499 -501)
May the Holy Spirit help us to imitate Jesus Christ our Model in everything we do so that after doing the will of God in this world we die a happy death and live with God and the Angels and Saints in Heaven forever and ever, Amen!
Father Clement Uchendu C.S.Sp., PhD
OF FR. FRANCIS TANDOH C.S.Sp.
I am Fr. Francis Tandoh. I was born to the parents of Mr. Andrew Tandoh & Mrs. Dorothy (Payne) Tandoh. I am the fourth child from a family of 12 children with ten surviving. I pursued my elementary and high school education in Kumasi, Ghana. I received my call to the priesthood at an early age. I attended St. Hubert’s Seminary in Kumasi. I left the seminary to continue my Sixth Form (at a time high school was seven years in Ghana) education in T. I. Ahamadya Islamic School, in Kumasi. I entered the teaching career and taught in St. Benedict Middle School, Kumasi, Ghana, from 1981-83.
I decided to join the Missionary and Religious Order of the Holy Spirit Congregation and entered into the Postulancy in 1983. I completed my Novitiate and started my philosophical studies in 1985, at the School of philosophy Insukka, Nigeria. I took some time off reflecting on my vocation to the priesthood. During this time, I taught Social Studies in St. Anthony Junior High School, in Kumasi Ghana. At the same time, I was engaged in a rural ministry for young adults.
I went to continue my studies for the Priesthood and missionary life in the Spiritan International School of Theology, Enugu, Nigeria. I was ordained in the Star of the Sea Catholic Cathedral by the late Most Rev. Charles Kweku Sam on July 24, 1993, in Takoradi, Ghana, my home Diocese, after completing my theological studies.
I hold a degree in Religious Education; master’s in educational administration/Leadership. I hold a certificate in Pastoral Counseling; I am a certified Clinical Chaplain with CPSP. I suspended my candidacy as a student in licentiate/Doctoral degree with Marian Research Institute, University of Dayton, due to my parish workload, but I hope to take it up very soon. Before my ordination, I was the Publicity Officer for the Kumasi Diocesan Youth Council; Bursar Holy Ghost Pre-Novitiate, Ghana.
In my Ministry as a Priest, I single-handedly founded a benevolent group called Spiritan Friends, who support the Spiritans and their ministries. I have served at Our Lady of Fatima Parish while in residence as Religion Teacher in St. Edward’s Middle School, Bwiam the Gambia and St. Peters High School; Pastor Star of the Sea Parish, an affluent Parish of 1000 families; Pastor St. Charles Luanga Parish of about 2000 in Sunday mass attendance. Rector St. Peters Seminary, all in the Gambia.
I was transferred here to the United States in 1996 to serve as the Mission Coordinator for the Holy Spirit Fathers, West Africa Province, now Ghana Province, a position that I still served until 2016. My main work was to write grants and preach
in Catholic Churches to creating awareness about the missions, especially in Africa in soliciting funds to support the church’s activities in Africa, especially in training priest for the Spiritans coming from Ghana. To support myself I was employed to be the Religious Education Director in Resurrection Catholic School, now St. Benedict the Moor Catholic School, while still being the Parochial Vicar for St. James and Resurrection Parishes in Dayton Ohio until my appointment as the Pastor of St. James and Resurrection Parishes, in December 2000.
In 2000 soon after my appointment, I led the parish community of 400 families through a church building campaign, Vision to Victory, which finally gave them a new church edifice, with a new parish, St. Benedict the Moor. The church holds 1050 people in the sanctuary and a hall which seats 600 people, I am the first pastor of this newly created parish. In that same year, I was appointed the Pastor of St. Augustine, Germantown and St. Mary, Camden with Fr. Joshua Otusafo as my Associate.
In July 2009 in addition to the three Parishes, I was asked to be the Pastor of St. Mary’s and Holy Family in Dayton. In 2010/2011, Holy Family Parish was closed to the English Congregation due to financial constraints. I still have all these three Parishes. St. Mary’s Camden was given out to the Preble County Parishes in 2014.
Recently in 2015, I led my parishes into accepting the only Catholic school in the West side of Dayton that was closing, reasons being poor Academic Standards and Financial Constraints. Today St. Benedict the Moor School is opened and thriving academically and raising good students for the future of our community and country. Advocacy has been my passion for the ministry. I believe the word becomes more meaningful when parishioners see it reflected in the community and their life. For
more than six years I was the Co-chairperson and Chairperson of Leaders of Equality of Action in Dayton (LEAD). LEAD is an interfaith Justice Group who work with City leaders and Congregations to hold the system and Politicians accountable to bring freedom and peace into the community. In my terms we were able to have victories with the RTA busing Board to be more inclusive, the City of Dayton to change its ordinance to be friendlier to Ex-Offenders (Bann the Box), City increasing the demolishing of dilapidated buildings and many more victories.
As I celebrate this weekend the 25 years milestone today, it is my will to work together with all of you who are my flock to expand the missionary work of God with affection and love for the good of you, my parishioners, and the community that we serve. May the good Lord who has entrusted me with his flock help me with good health, courage and good directions that comes from the guidance of his spirit to bring it to a fruitful end.
Thank you for your support during all these years