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The Dominican Seminar: Evangelii Gaudium

Friday, January 10, 2014
Fr. John Farrell OP lectures on Evangelii Gaudium
The annual Dominican seminar which gathers together Friars, Sisters, and Lay Dominicans from all over the country for study, prayer, and general good humour was once again held at Hinsley Hall in Leeds last weekend. This year the focus was on the Pope’s recent summons of all Christians to a renewed commitment to mission in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, an appropriate topic indeed for the Order of Preachers. 

The opening lecture by Fr. John Farrell OP very much set the tone for the whole weekend. In the course of an overview of the document’s major themes, Fr. John posed a simple but, for me at least, unexpected question: when Jesus miraculously multiplied the loaves and fish to feed the five thousand (Matthew 14: 13-21; Mark 6: 31-44; Luke 9: 10-17; John 6: 5-15), at what point did the multiplication actually take place? In answer, Fr. John suggested that the loaves and the fish were multiplied as the disciples gave. A mountain of food did not suddenly appear as soon as Jesus said the blessing. Rather, the loaves and fish multiplied in the disciples’ hands as they handed the food on. 

Sr. Hyacinthe updates us on a new catechetical initiative.
In some respects, then, the miracle of the ‘feeding of the five thousand’ is a sign of the Apostles’ future destiny when they would be sent out to the four corners of the world to preach the Good News. We can easily imagine how ridiculous the disciples must have felt approaching the crowd, having sat them all down for dinner, with only five loaves and two fish. Nevertheless they made a start, they gave the little they could, and Jesus multiplied what they gave so generously that there were twelve baskets of left overs. After his Resurrection, Jesus once again commanded the Apostles to go and feed his people: this time with the Word of God. The disciples were sent to preach the Gospel to all nations. Again, on a human level they were manifestly ill equipped for this mission. Yet they made a start, they did what they could, and once again God super abundantly multiplied their efforts as the Holy Spirit blew through the Apostles’ words and deeds. 

Now we have inherited this mission to preach the Gospel to all nations. Like the Apostles we are called to announce that the Kingdom of God is at hand, to preach Good News to the poor, to feed the crowds spiritually and sometimes materially also. At times this can seem like a hopeless task. The weight of the world’s poverty, its injustice, its violence, its indifference and sometimes hostility, all of this can create a sense of overwhelming inertia and rob us of hope. We can be tempted to think that it is not worth even trying to preach the Gospel or work for justice because our resources are so paltry and the task so great. But we must not succumb to this temptation: it is not all hopeless. 

Relaxing in the evening.
Like the apostles who attempted to feed a crowd of 5000 with five loaves and two fish, we must have the courage and the faith to do what we can, to give what we can, to love where we can, to witness to the truth where we can: because we do not preach the Kingdom of God by our own strength but by God’s strength and he has already won the victory through the cross of Jesus. As our Lord multiplied the loaves and fish in the hands of the disciples he will multiply our efforts also: Jesus continues to feed his flock and gather in lost sheep through the labours of his disciples. We are fed, and we feed others, when we share in Christ’s sacrifice and offer our lives for many. We ought, then, not to be discouraged by the size of the task, but rejoice that we have been given the honour of working with Christ to serve our brothers and sisters. 

The rest of the weekend was largely spent unpacking these themes, with friars, sisters and lay people speaking about the various projects they are engaged in, sharing thoughts and ideas, with plenty of time for socializing also.

Nicholas Crowe OP


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