(For the audio version of this blog, visit: http://brothersinchristcmf.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Mass-Blog-for-the-17th-Sunday-in-Ordinary-time-2021.mp3)
A little movie with a limited release had a big impact on me recently. Shepherd: The story of a Jewish Dog, tells the story of Kaleb, a beloved German shepherd taken from his Jewish family as they were rounded up, separated from each other and imprisoned in death camps by the Nazis in WWII Germany. The dog, however, is adopted by an SS Officer who trains him to attack and round up people at a work camp. The fact this dog later reunites with his family’s little boy and helps him survive was the main miracle of this story. But a small scene in this film featuring a minor character’s major miracle is what I will always remember.
In one of the cages imprisoning two men awaiting their certain fate, one of the men prays aloud to God. His cell mate, who long ago lost faith that God hears prayers, says, “Why are you praying, God doesn’t hear you!” The man replies, “But I hear me.” And so did the cell mate. The message that resonates here is that before we can expect God to hear our prayers, WE must hear them as God hears them in our own heart and from our own mouth.
Jesus understood the power of spoken prayer. It was an important part of his own Jewish traditions. He lived that Godly connection that makes the impossible possible, and made sure others overheard it.
This week’s and next week’s blog posts explore the spiritual connections between the Jewish and Christian traditions.
In this Sunday’s gospel about the miracle of the loaves and fish (Jn 6:1-15), Jesus tests the faith of his own disciples who see the impossibility of feeding the throngs surrounding them with just a few loaves and fish. “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” he asks Philip. John writes, “He himself knew what he was going to do.”
Answer: the impossible.
“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.”
He gave thanks out loud, like many faithful families do before sharing a meal, so he, his people and his Father could hear. This reminds us of what Jesus says in Matthew 18:20: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
In an age where people imprison themselves in solitary confinement, the only hope for release comes when we can hear ourselves ask God for freedom; not to free our bodies, but to give every one of us the key to our soul’s jail cell.
(Next week we delve deeper into freeing our faith from solitary confinement, and how the transcendent beauty of the Holy Spirit can overpower even the horrors of Auschwitz.)