17th Sunday in Ordinary Time(B)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

What do you do with leftovers? Leftovers are a sign of abundance. For the hosts, it is better to have left overs than to be short of food and drink It would be a very embarrassing situation if food runs out at a feast. As a priest who gets invited to many fiestas I often see how the hosts try to prepare as much food as they can afford. Some even go as far as being in debt just to satisfy the guests. People are generous.

Action starter: With what are you generous? To whom?

The readings this Sunday talks of the great generosity of God. The first reading from the book of Kings describe how Elisha fed a hundred people out of twenty barley loaves (2Kgs 4:43). There were some left over. The responsorial psalm says, “The hand of the Lord feeds us; He answers all our needs.” The Gospel tells the miracle of multiplication of bread and fish. Jesus fed more than five thousand people out of five barley loaves and a couple of dried fish (John 6:11). There were twelve baskets full of leftovers. God is generous and Jesus is the sign of the generosity of God. When God gives He gives the best and he gives more than enough.

Shouldn’t we imitate the generosity of God? If God is generous and if we are made in the image and the likeness of God, then we are supposed to be generous too. To be generous is to share the gifts that we have received. These could be our talents, our treasure, our time. This entails even going against our natural tendency to think only of our selves. As St. Paul challenged the Ephesians, “ I plead with you as a prisoner for the Lord, to live a life worthy of the calling you have received, with perfect humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another lovingly (Eph. 4:1).” St. Paul advised that a disciple must be generous with his patience and forbearance. This is especially true when one lives in community.

In a community one has to learn to share with others. In large families for example one has to share food, the bathroom, even clothes with his or her brothers and sisters. I would venture the hypothesis that perhaps the contemporary tendency of some people towards selfish living is based on the lack of experience of community life. It is difficult to learn to share when there is nobody to share with. The horizon for the exercise of sharing and giving is community living. Education in generosity happens against a backdrop of community life. We learn to be interdependent when we are part of a community. Indeed no one is so rich that he has nothing to receive and no one is so poor that he has nothing to give.

I once visited a far village on top of the mountain. The only way to reach the village is by walking, by horseback or by motorcycle. After my mass I was getting ready to drive two hours through bad roads back the town when I noticed one woman hurrying towards me and offered me a sack of potatoes to carry home. Motorcyclists know how hard it is to drive trough mud with a load to carry behind you. However, I joyfully accepted her gift, thinking to myself that if she has taken all the trouble to gather these potatoes, it is worth all the trouble to carry them home on my motorcycle. I prayed that God will bless her with more potatoes and many other things besides - plus a lot of leftovers.