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Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

For the next five weeks we take our leave of Saint Mark's Gospel (since it is not long enough to fill the year) and read Chapter Six of Saint John's Gospel. This is the famous “Eucharistic Discourse” and begins with the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. A line of the Psalm gives the meaning of today's readings: “The eyes of all creatures look to you (O God) and you give them their food in due time.” Our God is the God who provides for his people; the prosperity and fruitfulness of our earth and the mysterious cycles of nature ensures that all have what they need ‑ and have some left over. The actions of Elisha and Jesus are in a sense prophetic: many would say that there is not enough food in this world to go round, just as the two sets of disciples complain that there is not enough for the hundred or the five thousand. But the prophetic action states that this is not true: God provides what is needed. This might prompt us to think about the unfair and unequal distribution of the fruits of the earth: the miracle is a sign of the Kingdom of God ‑ what God wants the world to be like. Perhaps we should take the message of the miracle to heart this Sunday and think about the multitude that still sits in hunger in our world today.

Notes for Readers

First Reading: 2 Kings 4:42‑44

A very simple and straightforward account. Just note the pronunciations: the 'i' in `Elisha' is pronounced as “eye”, and Baal‑shalishah is pronounced as it is written. Watch the different tones of the dif­ferent speakers, and make something of Elisha's emphatic repetition of his instruc­tion, “Give it to the people to eat.” The final words “ the Lord had said" can be read with a tone of wonder at the miracle that has occurred.


Second Reading: Ephesians 4:1‑6

This very familiar reading is at once powerful and simple. Paul explores the theological theme of unity (“one God, one Lord, one faith...”) as related to the idea of the community living together in peace and love, as a united body. This is one of those readings (often from Saint Paul) that can be read directly to the congregation in Church, as though Paul himself were talking to those in Church. This comes out in the very first sentence, when Paul says “I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to live...”. If you can look up at your listeners at this point, it will engage them in their listening to these words. Consider the practicality of Paul's ap­peal: realise that he is pleading with people to live in charity, selflessness, gentleness and patience. Save a special emphasis for the words “Do all you can...”: this is a spe­cial plea ‑ the climax of Paul's list ‑ and so there should be a special emphasis in the reader's voice when you come to this line. From here comes the list of the exam­ples of unity, with the frequent repetition of the word “One”. Make something of this, leaning slightly on the word each time it appears.