Curated preaching illustrations and anecdotes from Fr. Tony Kadavil. NEW! Now with videos; Also includes Fr. Tony’s commentary, and Children illustrations/object sermons.
17th Sunday of Year B
POVERTY AND HUNGER IN THE MIDST OF WEALTH AND PROSPERITY
PLANET POOR VS. PLANET RICH (6:27)
In the Asian, African, and Latin American countries, well over 500 million people are living in what the World Bank has called “absolute poverty.” Every year 15 million children die of hunger. The Indian subcontinent has nearly half the world’s hungry people. Africa and the rest of Asia together have approximately 40%, and the remaining hungry people are found in Latin America and other parts of the world. Nearly one in four people, 1.3 billion – a majority of humanity – live on less than $1 per day while the world’s 358 billionaires have assets exceeding the combined annual incomes of countries with 45 percent of the world’s people.
There are three reasons for this situation:
1) The unwillingness of the rich people and wealthy countries to share their blessings with poor and the needy.
2) The unjust distribution of wealth, enabling the rich to become richer and let the poor to get poorer.
3) The exorbitant military spending of rich and poor nations. Most countries spend more than half their national income for the military.
THANKS, DAD, FOR SHOWING ME HOW POOR WE ARE
One day, a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor people live. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, “How was the trip?” “It was great, Dad.”
“Did you see how poor people live?” the father asked.
“Oh yeah,” said the son. “So, tell me, what you learned from the trip” asked the father.
The son answered, “I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden, and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden, and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard, and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on, and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us; they have friends to protect them.”
The boy’s father was speechless.
Then his son added, “Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we are.”
DOOLOUGH TRAGEDY (IRISH FAMINE VICTIM’S WALK OF DEATH)
With the failure of the potato crop in 1845, Ireland was sent into a downward spiral of starvation, poverty, disease, and death. Subsequent annual crop failures brought even more suffering. As the Great Hunger progressed, more and more Irish were made destitute and homeless, without any means of obtaining food. The truly sad truth about the Great Hunger is that the British continued to ship food from Ireland while millions of Irish starved.
n March of 1849, over six hundred starving people made their way into the town of Louisburgh in search of food through outdoor relief or a ticket that would admit them to the workhouse. They met with the Receiving Officer at the Louisburgh workhouse. He told them he had no authority to grant them food or a ticket, but they could appeal to two of the Board of Guardians, Colonel Hograve and Mr. Lecky, who were meeting the next day at Delphi Lodge, located twelve miles south of Louisburgh. The crowd spent the night in Louisburg. Weakened from their trip, many of the 600 men, women and children who slept in the streets that night died.
The next day, five hundred of those that remained trudged through the mud and rain along a goat track in the direction of Delphi Lodge, crossing the Glankeen River at flood stage and through the mountain pass. Still more died of exhaustion along the way. They arrived wet and cold at Delphi Lodge the next afternoon. The Board of Guardian members were at lunch when the people arrived and amazingly, they could not be disturbed. The starving crowd was told to wait. A few more died of exhaustion while waiting. When they had finished their meal the crowd was advised to return to Louisburgh. Disappointed, the group headed back to Louisburgh over the same bleak and dangerous path they had just taken. It is unknown how many of this group of starving people met their death in the waters of Doolough.
Some call them the dead victims of the Great Hunger; others refer to them as martyrs. Hunger and poverty are the consequences of the selfishness of people. So the solution to this devastating problems lies with man alone.
Appalled at the wastefulness of their students, two elementary school teachers in Santa Cruz, California, planted a young sapling on the school’s campus and named it the Free-Food Tree. Rather than discard their uneaten or unwanted sandwiches, the children were encouraged to place them under the tree so that students who had lost their lunch or could not afford one could help themselves. Some children began to bring an extra sandwich from home so that they’d have one to put under the Free-Food Tree. Eventually, the supply of donated food was sufficient to nourish all the school’s hungry youngsters with enough left over to offer to the homeless who lived in the city park near the school.
In addition to learning not to waste their share of this world’s goods, the students had their first encounter with hunger and began to understand what they could do to alleviate it, a valuable lesson indeed, considering the fact that every hour 1,500 of this world’s children die of hunger or hunger-related causes.
THAT’S A MIRACLE
That’s a miracle. Rembrandt could take a two-dollar canvas, paint a picture on it, and make it a priceless masterpiece. That is art. John D. Rockefeller could take a worthless check, sign his name to it, and make it worth a million dollars. That’s capital. A mechanic can take a piece of scrap metal and bend and shape it into a $500 automobile part.
That is skill. — Jesus Christ can take the commonest bread and dried fish, bless and multiply it, making a banquet for 5,000! That is a miracle.
View More Homily Starter Anecdotes compiled by Fr. Tony
17th Sunday of Year B
Jesus provides a meal for 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fishes. Matthew 14:13-21
SHARING OUR BLESSINGS WITH THE NEEDY
Today’s readings invite us to become humble instruments in God’s hands by sharing our blessings with our needy brothers and sisters. Miracles can happen through our hands when we collect and distribute to the needy the food destined for all by our generous God. Today’s readings also remind us that if we have been blessed with an abundance of earthly bread, or with the technical capabilities needed to produce such an abundance, then these gifts are for sharing with the hungry. When physical hungers are satisfied, then we are challenged to satisfy the deeper hungers — for love, mercy, forgiveness, companionship, peace, and fulfillment.
The first reading tells us how the prophet Elisha, by invoking God’s power, fed one hundred men with twenty barley loaves. This miracle foreshadows the Gospel account of Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the hungry crowd.
The Refrain for today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 145) has us sing: “The hand of the Lord feeds us; God answers all our needs.” The middle verse selected for today affirms, “The eyes of all look hopefully to You, and You give them their food in due season; You open Your Hand, and satisfy the desire of every living thing”
In the second reading, St. Paul reminds the Ephesians that Jesus united the Jews and the Gentiles, bringing them together as Christians in “one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all Who is above all and through all and in all.” Hence, he urges them to keep this unity intact as ”one body and one spirit” by living as true Christians, “bearing with one another through love,” in humility, gentleness, patience and peace. If we become such a community, nobody will go hungry, and God will meet the needs of people through the services provided by members of our community.
As described in today’s Gospel, the miraculous feeding of the five thousand people by Jesus, with five barley loaves and two fish is associated in Church tradition with the Holy Eucharist. John’s version of the miracle clearly heightens the Eucharistic allusions when we read it along with the miraculous feeding of 100 men by the prophet Elisha in today’s first reading. But unlike Elisha, Jesus Himself assumed the Divine role, feeding the people with eschatological plenty. The reaction of the people was immediate and unanimous; they interpreted the miracle as a messianic sign and gave Jesus two Messianic titles: “The prophet” and “the one who is to come.” This miracle teaches us that God works marvels through ordinary people. Elisha’s servant and Jesus’ disciples distributed the bread, provided by God. Thus, God meets the needs of the people through the services provided by the members of His community.