A man came from Baal-shalishah bringing to Elisha, the man of God, twenty barely loaves made from the first fruits, and fresh grain in the ear. Elisha said, "Give it to the people to eat." But his servant objected, "How can I set this before a hundred people?" Elisha insisted, "Give it to the people to eat. For thus says the Lord, "They shall eat and there shall be some left over."" And when they had eaten, there was some left over, as the Lord had said.(P) The word of the Lord.
Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord, and let your faithful ones bless you. Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might. (R)
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. (R)
The Lord is just in all his ways and holy in all his works. The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth. (R)
Brothers and sisters: I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.(P) The word of the Lord.
The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while."
Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, "Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?" He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "Two hundred days' wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little." One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, "There is a boy here who has given barely loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?" Jesus said, "Have the people decline." Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, "Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted." So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, "This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world." Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdraw again to the mountain alone.(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
Over the course of more than two thousand years in the history of the Church, hundreds of thousands of people have shed blood for their Faith. In some parts of the world, Christians are put to death for their faith every day. A study in May 2015, reported that every five minutes, a Christian is killed for his Christian Faith. This means that yearly around 100,000 Christians are killed around the world solely because of their faith. This estimate does not include those who are tortured, imprisoned, exiled, threatened, attacked and discriminated against. Some of those who have been killed are venerated as martyrs of faith.
The Church remembers and celebrates their martyrdom on different days during the liturgical year. Yesterday, on July 24th, the Church celebrated the feast of Saint James, the son of Zebedee and brother of Saint John, the evangelist. James was the first of the Apostles to be martyred for his faith in Jesus Christ. However, hundreds of thousands of others who have been or are killed for their faith in Jesus have gone or go unnoticed by the rest of the Church, except perhaps in the land of the martyr. Let me tell you a story.
In Pakistan there was a man named Tahir Iqbal. He was born a Muslim and a paraplegic - a man paralyzed from the waist down. As you may know Islam is recognized as the country's official and dominant religion in Pakistan. Even though the country follows the policy of religious toleration there have been countless stories of persecutions against Christians.
Tahir converted to Christianity after reading the Bible he had received from a friend. After his conversion, he began to share his faith and the Scriptures with others, especially the children in his village. In December 1990, Tahir was accused of committing blasphemy and was sentenced to death by hanging. Prior to his execution in 1993, Tahir confessed his faith in Jesus Christ saying, "I changed my faith because I found the Truth. I will kiss the rope that hangs me, but I will never deny my faith." Many of us may not have such a faith.
I believe that Tahir is one of the Christians who truly followed the instruction of Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians which we read today. Paul urged the Ephesian Christians to live a life worthy of the call they had received. "The call" here refers to, "being a believer in Christ Jesus" or being a "Christian". There is no doubt Tahir Iqbal, Saint Paul, Saint James and all the other martyrs saw life beyond the threats to their own lives and whose lives have become a testimony of a life worthy of the Christian call.
Paul begins his instruction by drawing the Ephesians' attention to the fact that he is a prisoner, "I, a prisoner for the Lord urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received", Ephesians (4:1). In other words, Paul wanted the Ephesians to know that it is worth being imprisoned, worth suffering and worth dying for the Christian call. What is the call of Christians? Paul explains in the same letter, Ephesians (1:4), "Thus He (God) chose us in Christ before the world was made to be holy and faultless before Him".
There are two things to keep in mind here:
However, God's calling, when accepted, demands sacrifices which includes self-renunciation, which is, renunciation of one's own interests in favor of the interests of others. In today's text, Paul briefly and clearly expresses in his own words what self-renunciation entails. He says, "Live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace", Ephesians (4:1-3).
Paul encouraged the Ephesian Christians to exhibit humility, gentleness, patience, enduring love and the bond of peace. That's to say, they were to renounce pride, avoid harshness, resist impatience, shun hatred and combat disunity. Christ himself displayed these five qualities throughout His entire earthly ministry and called His followers to follow him. In the gospel of John (13:35) we read Jesus saying to his disciples, "It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognize you as my disciples."
Our characteristics are not innate. No one is born with them. For instance, we are not born honest or liars, but we become so by repeatedly telling the truth or by repeatedly lying. But we can embrace good characteristics through faith. We believe that without our faith in God, we cannot possibly achieve all these qualities - humility, gentleness, patience, enduring love and peace. That's to say, what we believe is important because our beliefs show us the way we live, the choices we make and how we see the world and God.
So, Paul points out, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all", Ephesians (4:4-6). In other words, Paul called on the Ephesian Christians to believe in, "one body, one spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all". However, "believing the right things" alone will not transform a Christian's life but rather the Christian's life must also be characterized by humility, gentleness, patience, enduring love and peace, otherwise his or her beliefs are meaningless.
Paul's admonition to "live in a manner worthy of the call they had received", was not only for the Ephesian Christians who had genuinely confessed their faith in Jesus Christ, and who were committed to following Him but also to others who have been called to follow Christ, such as ourselves. Even though all Christians are called to be martyrs not just anyone gets the chance to become a martyr. Most of us are called to be simple Christian mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends. That being so, I would like to pose the following questions to you today: "Are you living in a manner worthy of your call"? Are you a good Christian Mom, Dad, brother, sister or friend? Is there anything unchristian in your daily life?
Do you observe these Christ-like qualities in you so people might see them and recognize you as Christ's disciples? Do you truly believe in the oneness of the church that consists of "one Body, one Spirit, one Hope, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism and one God"?
Humility, gentleness, patience, enduring love and peace are not the strongest qualities in many of us. Often times we want others to treat us with these qualities, but we may not be motivated to cultivate these traits in our lives.
Let us spend some time in prayer today thanking God for this wonderful calling that we have received from Him. Let us ask God to help us in our commitment to live our lives that are worthy of our calling - lives that manifest humility, gentleness, patience, love and peace.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!