Reflection on Today’s Daily Readings by Fr. Bertrand Buby, SM
Scripture: Lectionary # 407, Monday, Aug. 2. Jeremiah 28:1-17. Psalm
119:290,43,79,80,85,102. Matthew 14:13-21:
Moses gives us advice about the prophetic call that will help us understand
what Jeremiah experiences in today’s reading. He is confronted by another
“prophet” named Hananiah who predicts victory and freedom from the enemies
of Israel–the Assyrians. With Moses we can discern Jeremiah as being the
authentic prophet of God while Hananiah is not. In chapter eighteen Moses
first gives advice and rules about the priests, then he turns to the
prophets. It is the latter group with which we have interest. “If you say
to yourselves, ‘How can we recognize an oracle which the Lord has spoken?
‘ Know that even though a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if his
oracle is not fulfilled or verified, it is an oracle which the Lord did not
speak. The prophet has spoken it presumptiously, and you shall have no fear
of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:22). Thus the proof that the prophet Jeremiah is
speaking with true prophecy depends on its effect and its truthfulness.
We see from the context and the history of Israel that Jeremiah is
authentic and truthfull whereas Hananiah is not. Hananiah is speaking in
his own name and not that of God. He dramatically lifts the wooden yoke
from the captured Jeremiah and predicts that an iron yoke will be put upon
the Assyrians, the enemy of the city of Jerusalem. Hananiah prophesies
peace and security for the nation; Jeremiah has been speaking against that
because of the unfaithfulness of the king, the princes, and the priests to
the covenant. Jeremiah predicts correctly the Babylonian Exile and is a
victim of it himself, whereas, Hananiah will soon die according to
Jeremiah. That happens in the seventh month after these events.
What we learn from the words of Moses is that prophetic announcements need
to be verified; they need discernment. No one can take on the role of a
prophet without God’s calling that person to this gift for the nation.
Jeremiah exemplifies this throughout and never sought the role of a prophet
from his own willing it but from God’s willing it for him.
Our Gospel shows us Jesus’ grief over the death of John the Baptist. He
retires alone and needs time to be with the Father over this tragedy that
we have heard about in the Gospel. The crowd however finds him and is in
need of nourishment. All that is available are a few fish and five loaves
of bread. The compassion of Jesus leads him to multiply these few gifts
and then to have them distributed by his disciples. Over five thousand
people are fed with the blessed bread that Jesus multiplied for them. The
scene is eucharistic in its wording and also gives us the human emotions of
our Lord in his compassion for the crowd. There is enough left over– the
twevle baskets represent the twelve tribes of Israel, that is, the whole
congregation of Israel as the elect of God. Jesus’ humanity is emphasized
and his divine power is authentic for it is for the good of the people and
not for his own glory. Power is seen to be authentic and true when the
common good is cared for.
Matthew’s narrative thus reveals the total love Jesus’ human heart has for
each one of us and for all of us. We render thanksgiving for this love and
this is what the Eucharist today is all about. Amen.