17th S. 2021: The Whole Person

Today’s homily is for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 25, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The Homily can be viewed by clicking here. And listened to by clicking here.

I was at the Farmer’s market in Turlock yesterday, and was talking to a friend and parishioner about church, youth groups, and festas nowadays—and even our upcoming festa that so many are working so hard to make amazing. We talked for a little bit about the teachings of the church, the truth that it teaches, and how festas, youth groups, and church gatherings were such great ways to share the beauty of the Church, it’s traditions, and its teachings. We agreed that when the Church gather’s there must be some intentionality about what we do—we must pass on the faith. It’s not JUST about the festa you know! We have the festa because (in this case) we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and if that is missed, then our gathering was nothing more than a party or fundraiser. 

But we also agreed that we cannot be focused ONLY on the Church, its tradition, and the truths of faith. There is more to being a Christian than theology and liturgy, and in the Gospel today Jesus teaches us how to do it right. He gives us the secret. Jesus ministers to the whole person. John chapter six begins with the feeding of five thousand, but it comes on the heels of chapter five where Jesus heals a paralytic on the Sabbath and has to explain himself to the Jews who accused him of violating the Sabbath Law. Jesus then goes on to teach them about the relationship between himself and the father, and how he is there to do the father’s work, and how to honor the son is to honor the father. He teaches them about the resurrection, eternal life, judgement and condemnation, and about Moses. 

Jesus heals a man and then gives them the catechism class of their life! He challenges them with what they think they know and authoritatively invites them to go deeper—to understand at a deeper level. This is serious stuff! And that brings us to today’s Gospel where in the midst of all of that healing and teaching (which many Catholics rightfully love and focus on), he sees that they are hungry and need to rest (which many Catholics rightfully love and focus on). 

Jesus teaches us that being a Catholic means that we nurture the whole person. Jesus teaches us that learning our faith is important and must be done—not just by children in CCD, but also by adults who read their Bible and books, who attend retreats and who continue to take advantage of learning opportunities in their parish and elsewhere. 

Jesus also teaches us that we must be healed. He teaches us that we need to approach the throne of God’s grace and receive mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, receive the anointing of the sick, and be healed in the Sacrament of the most holy Eucharist. That’s what it means to be Catholic. 

And Jesus teaches us that we need to party—I mean festa. We need to sit down, relax, enjoy family and friends, laugh and find rest. My avo always looked forward to going to the bullfight that ended the festa—I don’t think he ever actually saw the bullfight—he never left the bar area! He ate pork sandwiches and linguica, drank a glass of wine or two, and visited with friends. That’s what it means to be Catholic too—specifically, a Portuguese Catholic—that’s how we roll.  

Jesus ministered to the whole person. It wasn’t just about the head. It wasn’t just about the healing. It wasn’t just about the feeding. It was about the whole thing. We must be about the whole thing. Jesus cared about the body and the soul. He cared about the head and the heart. He cared about God’s presence, right here in our midst, and in eternity. So should we. So be healed, learn a lot, and don’t forget the festa, Jesus didn’t.

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