Filled and satisfied

9th Sunday after Pentecost (July 29, 2012)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Eph. 3:14-21; II Kings 4:42-44; Ps. 145:10-18; John 6:1-21

The holy month of Ramadan began on July 20. During this 30-day period, devout Muslims choose not to eat, drink or smoke from dawn to dusk – an amazing commitment during the long hot days of summer.  Ramadan, based on a lunar cycle, begins 10-12 days earlier each year.  In many parts of the world, it now falls during the longest daylight hours. Temperatures in Amman have been climbing to 40 C (104 F).

The Crescent moon is seen above the King Hussein Grand Mosque, in Amman, Jordan, Sunday, July 22, 2012. Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, is celebrated as the period when the Quran, Islam’s holy book, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad about 1,400 years ago, according to the Islamic history. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon – Denver Post)

Ramadan is a season of reflection, repentance, restoring right relationships and charitable giving.  It is also a time to celebrate family and food, as extended families gather to break the fast each day with an “Iftar” meal.  During Ramadan, Muslims experience the discomfort of hunger and thirst.  But they also know the satisfaction of being filled.

Palestinian Muslim women perform the “Tarawih” evening prayer in front of the Dome of the Rock at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in the old city of Jerusalem, July 24, 2012, during the fasting month of Ramadan. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/GettyImages -Denver Post)

Syrian rebels break their fast with the “iftar” meal during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in the northern city of Aleppo on July 24, 2012. A commercial hub and home to 2.5 million people, Syria’s second city Aleppo has become a new front in the country’s 16-month uprising, after being largely excluded from the violence. (BULENT KILIC/AFP/ GettyImages – Denver Post)

Fighting between Syrian government forces and anti-government rebels continues to intensify, with major battles now taking place in the large cities of Damascus and Aleppo, prompting thousands of Syrians to flee across the borders into Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, where officials are torn between welcoming the refugees and worrying about the impact on already volatile conditions and strained infrastructure.

Preparing food at a camp in Ramtha, Jordan a border town where Syrian refugees have fled (Tara Todras-Whitehill for The New York Times)

MCC material resources are being distributed to Syrian refugees in Jordan and an additional shipment of relief kits and blankets will soon be on the way to Jordan.

Basil Kaboushi, left, and Wajdi Haddad, volunteers with Caritas Jordan, an MCC partner, help to distribute MCC relief kits and comforters to Syrian refugees at the Latin Patriarchate School in Mafraq, Jordan, in June. (MCC Photo/Nada Zabaneh)

More than 100 persons were killed in a spate of attacks across Iraq, July 23, in the most deadly incident this year.

The Common Lectionary readings this week focus on being filled and satisfied.

In the Old Testament reading, a man brings 20 small barley loaves and fresh ears of grain to the prophet Elisha, who tells the man, “Give it to the people and let them eat.” (II Kings 4:42)  The man protests that it will not be enough food for 100 people. But Elisha insists that it will be more than enough.  Indeed, the people eat their fill and “had some left” – just as Elisha had promised (v.44).

In the Gospel reading, Jesus stretches a small amount of food even further. A crowd of thousands gathers because of the signs of healing Jesus has performed (John 6:1).  A young boy in the crowd offers his five barley loaves and two fish. Jesus blesses the lad’s lunch and asks his disciples to distribute the food to the crowd.  Everyone ate “as much as they wanted” (v.11) and “when they were satisfied” Jesus asked his disciples to gather up the leftovers, which filled twelve baskets.

Libyan men shop for olives and pickles from a vendor in downtown Tripoli before breaking their fast during Islam’s holy fasting month of Ramadan on July 22, 2012. (MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/GettyImages -Denver Post)

Similarly, the psalmist proclaims: “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.  You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing.” (Ps. 145:15-16).

In the Epistle reading, Paul prays that Christ will dwell in the hearts of the people so that they will have the power to comprehend the breadth, length, height and depth of God’s love; and so that they will be “filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:17-19)

Palestinians light fireworks to celebrate the first day of the Muslim Holy fasting month of Ramadan in Gaza City,  July 20, 2012.  (EPA/MOHAMMED SABER)

With thousands fleeing the violence in Syria, we are thankful for MCC partners like Caritas Jordan, who are daily engaged in distributing food and other material resources to meet basic needs of vulnerable families.  We pray for the day when the violence will end and families can return to their homes.  In the mean time, God is using human hands like those of Caritas Jordan volunteers to satisfy the desire of every living thing.

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