Sunday Bible Reflections
Today’s Gospel begins with a scene that recalls a similar moment in the history of Israel, the episode recalled in today’s First Reading. The seventy elders who receive God’s Spirit through Moses prefigure the ministry of the Apostles.
Like Joshua in the First Reading, John makes the mistake of presuming that only a select few are inspired and entrusted to carry out God’s plans. The Spirit blows where it wills (see John 3:8), and God desires to bestow His Spirit on all the people of God in every nation under heaven (see Acts 2:5, 38).
Sometimes we feel like Elijah in today’s First Reading. We want to lie down and die, keenly aware of our failures—that we seem to be getting no better at doing what God wants of us.
We can be tempted to despair, as the prophet was on his forty-day journey in the desert. We can be tempted to “murmur” against God, as the Israelites did during their forty years in the desert (see Exodus 16:2, 7, 8; 1 Corinthians 10:10).
The journey of discipleship is a lifelong exodus from the slavery of sin and death to the holiness of truth on Mount Zion, the promised land of eternal life.
The road can get rough. And when it does, we can be tempted to complain like the Israelites in this week’s First Reading.
We have to see these times of hardship as a test of what is in our hearts, a call to trust God more and to purify the motives for our faith (Deuteronomy 8:2–3).
Today’s liturgy brings together several strands of Old Testament expectation to reveal Jesus as Israel’s promised Messiah and King, the Lord who comes to feed His people.
Notice the parallels between today’s Gospel and First Reading. Both Elisha and Jesus face a crowd of hungry people with only a few “barley” loaves. We hear similar words about how impossible it will be to feed the crowd with so little. And in both the miraculous multiplication of bread satisfies the hungry and leaves food left over.
As the Twelve return from their first missionary journey in today’s Gospel, our readings continue to reflect on the authority and mission of the Church.
Jeremiah says in the First Reading that Israel’s leaders, through godlessness and fanciful teachings, had misled and scattered God’s people. He promises God will send a shepherd, a king and son of David, to gather the lost sheep and appoint for them new shepherds (see Ezekiel 34:23).
In commissioning the Apostles in today’s Gospel, Jesus gives them, and us, a preview of His Church’s mission after the Resurrection.
His instructions to the Twelve echo those of God to the twelve tribes of Israel on the eve of their exodus from Egypt. The Israelites likewise were sent out with no bread and only one set of clothes, wearing sandals and carrying a staff (see Exodus 12:11; Deuteronomy 8:2–4). Like the Israelites, the Apostles are to rely solely on the providence of God and His grace.
As we've walked with the apostles in the Gospels in recent weeks, we've witnessed Jesus command the wind and sea, and order a little girl to arise from the dead. But He seems to meet His match in His hometown of Nazareth. Today's Gospel is blunt: “He was not able to perform any mighty deed there.