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Twenty-fourth Sunday of the Year

Mass of the Sunday, Gloria, Creed, preface of the Sunday (green).  
Isaiah 50:5-9a; Psalms 116:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9; Matthew 8:27-35. 

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Peter followed Jesus but missed the point

Along the way to Caesarea Philippi Jesus quizzes the disciples with two questions; Who do people say I am; the second one is more challenging: Who do you say I am? 

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Open your ears to open your heart

Today’s gospel story is set in the Decapolis (v. 31), the region where Jesus drove from a possessed person a legion of demons that then entered the pigs, and then rushed down into the sea (Mark 5:1). We are therefore in a pagan land and this geographic location, placed deliberately by the evangelist to show that it has a definite theological significance.

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The religion of the lips and of the heart

The first part of the gospel today, refers to a heated dispute between Jesus and some Pharisees and scribes, who came from Jerusalem. 

The fault that they reproach him of is that his followers do not respect the distinction between the sacred and the profane: “They were eating their meal with unclean hands” (v. 2) and this casual and provocative behaviour they can only have learned from their teacher.

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At times God asks for too much

We are at the end of Jesus’ discourse in the synagogue at Capernaum. The Jews, who had sought him as a miracle worker, are faced with a staggering dilemma: could they eat of him as bread which came down from heaven. 

 The proposal can be accepted or rejected, but not negotiated, modified, made more acceptable by the cancellation of some of its demands. 

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And the word became Eucharistic bread

Today’s gospel takes up the last verse of last Sunday’s. It is an important verse, because it marks the passage in the speech of Jesus, from the bread of heaven, understood as word, as the wisdom of God, to the theme of the Eucharist.

Eucharist—that really makes Christ present—does not replace faith in his gospel. This is fundamental and indispensable. 

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From a carpenter’s son the bread from heaven

In the last part of last Sunday’s passage, we heard Jesus declare, “I am the bread of life.” He is the bread as the wisdom of God. Anyone who assimilates his proposal will satisfy the hunger and thirst for happiness and love (John 6:35).

Faced with this unprecedented demand, the Jews react in the strongest possible terms.

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I am the bread that gives eternal life

The final scene of last Sunday’s gospel marks, according to human criteria, the pinnacle of Jesus’ success. A huge crowd cheers him and, moved by an irrepressible enthusiasm, try to take him to make him king. 

What looks like a triumph is, however, for Jesus, the most disappointing of results. His gesture, the sign, is misunderstood. He proposes sharing and they understand as  comfortable multiplication of food.

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Let the bread be shared with everyone on earth

The sign of the multiplication of bread performed by Jesus indicates that the new society, one in which everyone is given the opportunity to live according to the plan of the Creator, where everyone can have sufficient resources to meet basic needs, must begin here and now. So an undue spiritualisation of this passage must be avoided.

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Become ministers of compassion

The gospel today begins with the return of the apostles from their mission, and Jesus’ invitation to them to rest for a while. “Jesus and the twelve are alone” on a boat, in silence, slowly moving away on the lake.

Service to the community requires much effort and great generosity. However, there is a need for caution, because it can easily turn into frenzied activity, often assessed according to the criterion of enterprise productivity