Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In the last few weeks, we have reflected on the missionary vocation Jesus entrusts to his apostles, his call to them to be good shepherds who carefully lead those entrusted to their care, and today, his providential care for each of his beloved sons and daughters. The Gospel passages read at Mass these three Sundays are, of course, connected. Jesus does not send us on mission and give us responsibilities as Christians with the expectation that we will fend for ourselves when in need of spiritual or physical food. On the contrary, the Gospel passage we read today reminds us that, relying on Divine Providence, God will give us all we need.
We should also see an obvious connection to the story of the prophet Elisha related in the first reading. Elisha feeds a large number of people with a limited supply of bread. It is a prophetic action that speaks to the truth Elisha proclaims – God will care for his people. When Jesus multiplies the loaves, the people who receive this gift immediately recognized the significance. Elisha fed 100 with twenty loaves. Jesus’ act far surpasses that of Elisha – he feeds 5,000 with five loaves and two fish. For this reason, those fed by Jesus declare that he is “the Prophet” par excellence; they recognize in him something that surpasses the power of all the prophets who have come before. If the prophetic action of Jesus surpasses the prophetic actions of the ancient prophets, so too does His message of God’s providential care for us.
We are fortunate enough to receive so many blessings from God’s hand. It is good for us to be reminded as we go about our ordinary routines that the same Christ who sends us out as missionaries, the same Christ who sees us in our distress, sadness, and suffering and longs to shepherd us, is the same Christ who feeds us, not only with the physical bread multiplied in the Gospel, but with the bread of His Body, the Eucharist. Our spiritual needs will always be provided for and we can place our trust in this merciful Savior.
One way in which God has provided for our spiritual needs is the blessing of priests who minister here. In a special way, the Jesuit community at Fairfield University has been a sign of God’s providential care. Next weekend, we will bid farewell to Fr. Bret Stockdale, SJ, who has been a faithful sign of that great providence. Fr. Stockdale has been given a new assignment at St. Anthony Parish in Oceanside, NY on Long Island. He will celebrate the noon Mass next Sunday, August 5 and afterwards, you are invited to a farewell reception for him in the Community Room. Let us pray for Fr. Stockdale as he begins his new assignment, that God’s providential care will guide him in his ministry and in thanksgiving for the gift his priestly service has been to our parish community!