Pope Francis has declared that this Sunday is the first World Day of Prayer for Grandparents and the elderly. It will be held every year on the fourth Sunday in July; this date was chosen as it is close to the feast day of St Joachim and St Anne, who are the parents of the Virgin Mary and the Grandparents of Jesus.

I am very fortunate, I had great relationships with my four grandparents. I experienced the love and support of them all. I lived with my maternal grandparents for five years before I was married and frequently visited my paternal grandparents; usually involving a meal. One of my favourite memories is of my Dad’s mum at my wedding, she was not one for showing affection, but on that day seeing all the hugs from the other grandparents, including Pam’s grandmother, she insisted on getting her hugs too.

The Holy Father said he instituted the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly because “grandparents are often forgotten, and we forget this wealth of preserving roots and passing on” what the elderly have received. The elderly, he continued, “remind us that old age is a gift and that grandparents are the link between the different generations, to pass on to the young the experience of life.” He emphasized the importance of grandparents and grandchildren getting to know one another, because “as the prophet Joel says, grandparents seeing their grandchildren dream,” while “young people, drawing strength from their grandparents, will go forward and prophesy.”1

The Scriptures used today, while not specifically chosen for Grandparents Day, give an indication of the love which most grandparents express. Their love is a love which ‘keeps’ on giving.

In our readings today we hear of how Elisha asked his visitor to share the food offering he had brought with the people; he was aware that the Lord had said the food would feed the hundred men with some left over. The twenty barley loaves would not normally stretch to feed so many, but when God’s providence is involved, there will always be more than enough.

St Paul reminds us that there is one Body, one Lord, one faith and one baptism and that we have all been baptised into that faith and have become the Body of Christ. We are bound together in the Spirit by God’s peace, and we are to be charitable to one another in thoughts and in deeds.

How does that peace feel today? Are we at peace with all of our family and friends?

If you do not feel at peace today, please offer up your anxieties, your frailness, your worries to God. If there is someone you need to forgive, do it now. If there is someone you need to ask forgiveness from; pray for the opportunity and when it comes, grasp it. God will restore your peace.

Those who have been carefully following the Scriptures will recognise that we have moved from Mark’s Gospel to John’s Gospel account of the feeding of the five thousand. We will remain with John’s Gospel for the next few weeks as we explore the Eucharist and emphasise that Jesus is the Word that feeds as well as the Body and Blood which nourishes.2 The Catechism of the Church tells us that today’s Gospel Reading gives us a foretaste of what would become the Eucharist as well as linking the reader back to the earlier passage in John’s Gospel from Chapter 2 where the water was changed into wine. It says

The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of his Eucharist. The sign of water turned into wine at Cana already announces the Hour of Jesus’ glorification. It makes manifest the fulfilment of the wedding feast in the Father’s kingdom, where the faithful will drink the new wine that has become the Blood of Christ (CCC1335).

John’s Gospel is a carefully crafted account of the life of Jesus, for example while the feeding of the multitudes is in all of the Gospel accounts, it is only John who mentions that the loaves were barley loaves; which is probably why the compilers of the Lectionary placed the reading from the 2nd Book of Kings in today’s readings as it has similarities to the Gospel. The crowds following Jesus, were not originally hungry for food; they were hungry for the Word of God. Their desire and fascination for the Word meant that they had not prepared any food for themselves for the end of the day. Jesus demonstrated that not only was he able to satisfy their hunger for the Word, but he was able to nourish them with food too. Jesus takes little and turns it into a lot. He can take your small faith and multiply it; we just need to believe and bring what we have to Him.

There is also an emphasis here that what we receive from God is to be shared and it is never to be allowed to go to waste. Notice that St John says they filled twelve baskets with the scraps which were left over. Some translations use the word ‘fragments’ instead of ‘scraps.’ Fragments was the word used for the bread of the Eucharist in the earliest description we have of the Eucharist (the Didache). We are called through our Baptism to share both the Word and the Eucharist; our interaction with others is the fruits of our Christian Community. We are fed by the Word and nourished by the Eucharist; through these two distinct parts we receive one Jesus, who gave Himself to us out of love.

Having heard the Word of God today, what fragments of the Word will you be taking with you? There are more than twelve disciples hearing/reading this, what have you collected in your basket to be shared with those you encounter following our Mass?

Jesus does not want a single fragment to be wasted. He is counting on us as His Body here on earth to share His love amongst all of his creation.

Please keep in your prayers

  • Pray for all Grandparents, especially those who because of family circumstances or due to the Pandemic are not able to spend time with their grandchildren.
  • The repose of the souls of those who have lost their lives during the recent storms, the comfort of their families and the people who have lost their homes and livelihoods.
  • Those who are sick, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • Those preparing to return to Mass.
  • Richard Mortimer, and Martha and Marcus Gernace who are being baptised this weekend and their parents and Godparents.
  • Those preparing for ordination to the Priesthood, Diaconate and Permanent Diaconate next weekend.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, which has now started, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Those who have been unable to receive the Eucharist during the pandemic.
  • Those involved in preparing our pastoral area ‘Big event’ on the 4th Sept’ – may it be a wonderful opportunity for our local parishes to come together, enjoy each other’s company and show our love of God and neighbour.

1 Pope establishes World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly – Vatican News

2 Robert Draper, Breaking the Word Sundays, Pastoral Review Vol 17 Issue 3 (The Tablet Publishing Company, London, 2021)78.