Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Father Shawn Hughes

July 29, 2018




Homilies are never the creative act of one person.  Thus, in posting these homilies on St. Mary’s Cathedral’s website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be little original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it: ‘tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures and/or the Spiritual Life.


God bless you.

Father Shawn

For the last two Sundays we have heard about the disciples being sent out to share in Jesus’ Mission.  This sending out of the disciples on mission is followed by today’s gospel’s sign of Jesus’ authority and divinity in the multiplication of the loaves and fishes which is the only miracle story that appears in all four gospels.   Over the next few Sundays, as we meditate on all of Chapter 6 of John’s gospel, known as the Bread of Life Discourse,  Jesus interprets the meaning and significance of this miracle as a sharing of his Body and Blood.

In many important ways, John’s Gospel uses this miracle to teach about and prepare the disciples for the even greater miracle of the Eucharist. Like the Last Supper, this miracle occurs near the time of the Jewish feast of Passover.  Jesus’ language is similar to the language he will use at the Last Supper.  He took the five loaves and two fish, gave thanks and distributed them.  John’s description of this event also anticipates the Messianic banquet of heaven, as the crowd reclines and all hungers are satisfied with abundance. This connection is further amplified by the response of the crowd; they want to make Jesus a king. John is teaching us that each time we celebrate the Eucharist; we are anticipating the eternal banquet of heaven.

Moses, the greatest and humblest of God’s Servants, (Numbers 12:3)  promised that someday God would send another leader to the people of Israel, someone as great as himself. Through the centuries the Jewish people had come to identify this “prophet” with the promised  Messiah, the anointed one, the Christ,  who would liberate their nation from oppression and usher in a new golden age, similar to the one they had enjoyed under King David.   


The magnitude of the miracle Jesus performs by multiplying the five loaves and two fish, added to the many other miracles that he had already done, so impresses the crowd, they are convinced that he is indeed the promised Saviour, the Messiah, the one whom God had sent into the world to finish the job of salvation that had begun with Moses and the Exodus from Egypt.  Thus they intend to make him king. (6:15). 


They recognized who he was…But they did not listen to him.  They got it wrong.   By his miracles he showed that he was God’s chosen one, but with his words he spoke of a new kind of kingdom, an everlasting Kingdom that was within men’s hearts, not in power or authority or political platforms as they had expected.  


The crowd’s reaction shows how difficult it is to receive Jesus’ gifts on his terms without translating them immediately into our own categories.  Jesus’ gifts of food, the offer of his grace, provided the crowd with a glimpse of his identity, but they immediately tried to twist that identity to serve their own purposes: to make Jesus king so to take his grace and twist it to conform it to their notions of power and authority.  To make Jesus King is to judge him according to human glory (5:44) rather than to see in him God’s glory.  When Jesus withdrew from the crowd (6:15), he showed that he would offer his gift of grace without claiming worldly power.  In that moment his glory was revealed …True glory has nothing to do with worldly power.  True glory is self-sacrificial love.  At the time of this gospel Jesus is trying to get away with the disciples for some down time.  And yet, he sees they need him.  He looks on them with compassion. 


Five loaves and two fish cannot feed a crowd of five thousand men plus at least as many women and children.  And yet, when the Apostles hand over all they have, five loaves and two fish, to the Lord, they become more than enough to do the job…12 baskets full left over…There is a powerful spiritual lesson for us here.  The same is true for every single Christian.  On our own natural talents and wisdom we cannot defeat the forces of evil in the world.  On our own strength we cannot put an end to the selfishness, ambition, lust, and greed that rage within the human heart.  On my own I can’t, nor can our parish, nor even the archdiocese do battle with the culture of death.  We only have five loaves and two fish.  On our own we can do nothing.    It is only if we surrender all we have, our hearts, into Christ’s hands, trusting in him and not ourselves, following his teachings and not our own passions and interests, can we hope to make any real difference for the good of the Kingdom.  When our hearts are transformed by that level of trust…only then can we slowly transform our world around us.   Each small act of self-sacrificial love toward another builds up the Kingdom.  What we could never achieve on our own, we can immeasurably surpass with God.  One of my favourite pieces of Scripture is in St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians: 4:13  “I can do all things in God who gives me strength.”  All things.


Sufficient strength, sufficient grace to follow his teaching is given here in the Eucharist and in the Sacrament of Confession and all our sacraments.


We often stumble, get caught up, confused, entangled by our faults, our failings, our fears…we think…I am not worthy, I couldn’t possibly be a missionary disciple of Christ to my family, to the people with whom I live, with those with whom I work, to the world around me…I’m not good enough…I wouldn’t know what to say…what will they think of me?  Recently I was asking someone what they thought God the Father saw when he looked at them…  the person was at a loss and really couldn’t come up with anything…When St. Ignatius of Loyola started his prayer he would consider for the span of what it would take to pray one Our Father, how God regarded him…it is a good practice for each of us…God is love…he can’t help but regard us out of that love…He created us…We are his… If we could just walk in our everyday lives in the confidence that the knowledge of that love gives us…then no matter how little we have would be filled with the Lord’s power. 

The story of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes recalls a particular aspect of the Mass. In this miracle, Jesus transforms a young boy’s offering of five barley loaves and two fish. In the offertory at Mass, we present the fruits of our labors, we present our very selves, represented by bread and wine. These gifts, given to us by God, are returned to God in our offering of thanksgiving. God in turn transforms our gifts, making this bread and wine the very Body and Blood of Jesus. When we offer our lives in this exchange, we, too, are transformed by the Eucharist. 

What we celebrate and offer to the Father at every Mass is Jesus’ ultimate act of surrender in trust and obedience to the Father.  What we receive back is the ability, the grace, to make the same act of surrender in trust and obedience.  With the little we offer, God gives us his very self in exchange.

If we let him.  If we get out of the way:  He opens His hand to feed us.  He answers all our needs.




The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.