'My actions and my desires can have a divine scope and can change the face of the earth.' Sunday Reflections, 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A


Feeding the Hungry
Master of the Acts of Mercy [Web Gallery of Art]


Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Matthew 14:13-21 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’  Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.


Stamp issued in Chile for the beatification of Fr Alberto Hurtado SJ, 16 October 1994

The late Fr John Griffin, a Columban colleague from New Zealand, who after many years in the Philippines went to work in Chile, wrote about a great saint of our times, San Alberto Hurtado SJ, a native of that country, in the last printed edition of Misyon, the Columban magazine in the Philippines that I edited from 2002 until 2017, the March-April 2008 issue.

One story he told in that article is a perfect expression of what happened in today's gospel. But first a little background in that same article:

Overall, Fr Hurtado is best known and remembered throughout Chile for his Hogar de Cristo (Christ’s Home) Foundation. The seed for this was sown late one night when he was on his way home to San Ignacio. He met a man who was in poor health, had eaten nothing all day and had nowhere to go.
This was the priest’s first encounter with such poverty and it moved him greatly. He did what he could for the man and then asked: ‘What are our Catholics doing for those who have no roof over their heads?’ He began asking this question during his retreats and so was born the idea of ‘Hogar de Cristo’. He formed a board of directors from people eager to help – six men and 30 women. Land was available alongside the Jesuit parish of Jesus the Worker and the first night-shelters were built and an appeal for funds began. By 1945 there were five shelters that had been able to house 12,000 poor men. Now it was time to do something for the numerous ‘street kids’ who spent their nights under the many bridges over the Mapocho River which runs for miles through Santiago. These youngsters needed educations as well as shelter and land was donated for this purpose a few miles to the north of the city near Colina railway station and a children’s home was built.
Today's gospel tells us: Jesus said to them, 'They need not go away; you give them something to eat.'

Stamp issued in Chile in 2001 for the centennial of the birth of  Padré Hurtado

Fr Griffin continues about San Alberto: 
Providence was always on his side. At a meeting one night his board of directors was unwilling, for lack of funds, to approve a new project. In the midst of discussions there was an unexpected call for Fr Hurtado to attend to someone at his front door. He had a brief conversation with the caller who said she wanted to leave a gift to help the great work he was doing.
He gratefully put her envelope in his pocket, wished her a good evening and returned to his meeting. He looked at the contents of the envelope as he sat down. Then he tossed a cheque onto the table saying, ‘There you are, you of little faith!’ It was for one million pesos – worth about US$30,000 at that time.

Statue of San Alberto Hurtado SJ
Viña del Mar, Chile, his birthplace [Wikipedia]

The directors on the board of Hogar de Cristo were being prudent, as they were supposed to be and, in being so, following what Jesus teaches us elsewhere in the gospels. But Father Alberto was listening to what Jesus said to the Apostles today: They need not go away; you give them something to eat.
I'm sure that when Father Alberto threw the check on the table and said 'There you are, you of little faith' he did so with a smile that expressed both irony and gratitude and that the board members saw the irony and felt the same sense of gratitude.
Once again we find the presence of Jesus in the needs of others - and in one who joyfully lives the Gospel.

Smile and move forward! Total sacrifice is perpetual joy. The squaring of the circle? No. Because there is a secret link between the gift of self, out of love, and peace of soul(San Alberto in a retreat to priests, 1948.)

The Gospel, radiant with the glory of Christ's cross, constantly invites us to rejoice. (Pope Francis, Evangelii GaudiumThe Joy of the Gospel, No 5, 2013.)


The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes
Lambert Lombard [Web Gallery of Art]

Meditation during a retreat by San Alberto on the gift of self and cooperation.

Some of the details here are found in St John’s Gospel.
        
Indecision, faintheartedness is the great obstacle in the plan of cooperation.  We think: I’m not worth all that much, and from this comes discouragement: It makes no difference whether I act or fail to act.  Our powers of action are so limited.  Is my unpretentious work worthwhile? Does my abstaining from this have any meaning? If I fail to sacrifice myself nothing changes.  No one needs me . . . A mediocre vocation?  How many vocations are lost. It is the advice of the devil that is partly true.  The difficulty must be faced.

The solution

5,000 men along with women and children have been hungry for three days… Food? They would need at least 200 denarii to feed them and this is the approximate yearly salary of a labourer.

In the desert!  Tell them to go! But Andrew, more observant says: There are 5 loaves and 2 fish, but what are these among so many! Here we have our same problem: the disproportion.

And the loaves.  Made of barley, hard as rocks (the Jews used wheat).  And the fish.  They were from the lake, small, rather mushy in texture, carried by a young boy in a sack that had lain on the ground for three days in the heat . . . not much of a solution. 

Did the Lord despise this offering? No, and with his blessing he fed all the hungry and had leftovers. Neither did he despise the leftovers: 12 baskets of the surplus were gathered, fish heads and bones, but even this he valued. 

The young boy consented to give Christ his poor offering, not realizing that he would feed the multitude.  He believed that he had lost his small possession but he found instead that there was even a surplus and that he had cooperated for the good of the others. 

And me . . . like those fish (less than those loaves) bruised and perhaps decomposing but in the hands of Christ my action may have a divine scope a divine reach. 

Remember Ignatius, Augustine, Camillus de Lellis, and Matt Talbot, base sinners whose lives were converted into spiritual nourishment for millions who will continue to feed on their witness. 

My actions and my desires can have a divine scope and can change the face of the earth.  I will not know it, the fish did not know it either. I can do a great deal if I remain in Christ; I can accomplish much if I cooperate with Christ . . .


A Hymn to Alberto Hurtado SJ
Written by Pablo Coloma for the beatification of Blessed Alberto on 16 October 1994, Sung by Pablo Coloma and Ximena Concha


Alberto, hoy resuena tu nombre                        
Se escucha tu palabra encendida
Tu rostro hoy recorre las calles
Tu huella marca un nuevo camino
Profeta que anunciaste el Reino
Supiste denunciar el dolor
Reíste con un canto a la vida
Mostraste un camino mejor.

Alberto, your name resounds today,
your enlightening word is heard, 
your face is seen today on the streets,
your footprints mark a new path.
A prophet who proclaimed the Kingdom,
who knew about pain,
who laughed with a song to life,
who showed a better way.

Alberto contemplé tu figura
incendiando las calles de una oscura ciudad.
Y vi que mil rostros reían
y otros más comprendían que era el paso de Dios.
Alberto has tocado nuestra alma
y ya siento que enciende ese fuego de Dios.
Tu vida fue un regalo divino,
una historia que hizo de este Chile un hogar.

Alberto, I watched you
lighting up the streets of a dark city.
And I saw a thousand faces laughing
and others who understood that that was the way of God.
Alberto, you have touched our soul
and I feel that I am lit by the fire of God.
Your life was a divine gift,
a story that made this Chile a home.

Maestro que enseñaste a vivir
la vida como lo hizo Jesús,
mirando en los hombres que sufren
su cuerpo castigado en la cruz.

A teacher who taught how to live
as Jesus did,
looking at those who suffer,
his body punished on the cross.

Apóstol, compañero de pobres,
viviste en tu carne el dolor
de tantos que viván despreciados,
tus manos fueron pan y un hogar.

Apostle, companion of the poor, 
you lived in your flesh the pain
of the many who are despised,
your hands were bread and a home.

Alberto contemplé tu figura
incendiando las calles de una oscura ciudad.
Y vi que mil rostros reían
y otros más comprendían que era el paso de Dios.
Alberto has tocado nuestra alma
y ya siento que enciende ese fuego de Dios.
Tu vida derramada en las calles
se alsa inmensa hasta el cielo en las manos de todos.

Alberto, I watched you
lighting up the streets of a dark city.
And I saw a thousand faces laughing and others who understood
that that was the way of God.
Alberto, you have touched our soul
and I feel that I am lit by the fire of God.
Your life poured out on the streets
is infinitely raised to heaven in the hands of all.

Just as St Teresa of Kolkata is known to everyone simply as 'Mother Teresa' and St Pius of Pietrelcina as 'Padre Pio', San Alberto is known to Chileans still as 'Padré Hurtado'.


Schola Gregoriana Abba Caelum, Seoul, Korea

Antiphona ad communionem  
Communion Antiphon Wisdom 16:20

Panem de caelo dedisti nobis, Domine,
You have given us, O Lord, bread form heaven,
habentem omne delectamentum, et omnem saporem suavitas.
endowed with all delights and sweetness to every taste.

On Sundays in Ordinary Time there is a choice between a Communion Antiphon with an Old Testament text and one with a New Testament text. The above is the former.

Extraordinary Form of the Mass
Traditional Latin Mass (TLM)

This Sunday, 2 August, is the Ninth Sunday After Pentecost in the calendar that uses the TLM. Complete Mass in Latin and English here.

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