17th Century Giovanni Lanfranco The Multiplication of the Loaves
Raccolta della Manna
[ Ordinary of the Mass ]
[ English Text ]
[ Latin Text ]
If you have been following the reading guide that we
publish in the Parish Bulletin, you've been reading the Second Book of
Kings, and you know that after replacing Saul as King of Israel, David took
advantage of his position and was guilty of adultery with the wife of one of
his soldiers named Urias. And then, when it became likely that he would be
caught, he ordered the death of Urias by putting him at the head of a squad
of soldiers who had little or no chance against the enemy in battle.
The scriptures tell us this story not because they want
to commemorate the misdeeds of King David but because God wants us to follow
David's example of contrition whenever we sin. We know that when David came
to recognize the magnitude of his crime, he prayed and fasted and did
penance for his sins. And in the end, he wrote the 50th Psalm. the Miserere, a
masterpiece which the Church employs quite often in its liturgy, whenever It
wants to convey the idea of repentance for sin.
1. Have mercy on me, O God, in Thy goodness; * in the
greatness of Thy compassion, wipe out mine offense.
Only God is able to grant forgiveness of sin by
ourselves we are powerless.
2. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt * and of my sin
3. For I acknowledge my offense, * and my sin is before
4. “Against Thee only have I sinned, * and done what is
evil in Thy sight.”
David reminds us of something often forgotten in modern
times: That all sin is primarily an offense against God.
5. That Thou mayest be justified in Thy sentence, *
vindicated when Thou dost condemn.
All too often we try to make excuses for our
shortcomings. We put off contrition, confession, and restitution. But
ultimately the soul recognizes its guilt—better here on earth, while there
is still time, then in the eternity of hell.
6. Indeed, in guilt was I born, * and in sin my mother
7. Behold, Thou art pleased with sincerity of heart, *
and in my inmost being, Thou dost teach me wisdom.
8. Cleanse me of sin with hyssop, that I may be
purified; * wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
The wise man recognizes that God is forgiving of those
who sin. Provided that they sincerely repent of their failings, God will
cleanse even the soul most stained with sin.
9. Let me hear the sounds of joy and gladness; * the
bones Thou hast crushed shall rejoice.
Sometimes God brings misfortune upon us to bring us to
repentance. But that repentance always brings joy with it. We are reminded
that when we go to Confession with some terrible sin on our souls, we come
out feeling so good!
10. Turn away Thy face from my sins, * and blot out all
11. A clean heart create for me, O God, * and a
steadfast spirit renew within me.
12. Cast me not out from Thy presence, * and Thy holy
spirit take not from me.
13. Give me back the joy of Thy salvation, * and a
willing spirit sustain in me.
Just as only God can forgive sin, it is only with God's
graces that we can avoid future sins. Only He can clean our hearts, and keep
our spirits willing in His service.
14. I will teach transgressors Thy ways, * and sinners
shall return to Thee.
This is so important. All of us, but particularly those
in high positions, have a duty to be sure that our sins don't mislead
others. Indeed, we have a positive duty to teach those around us the way to
15. Free me from blood guilt, O God, my saving God; *
then my tongue shall revel in Thy justice.
16. O Lord, open my lips, * and my mouth shall proclaim
17. For Thou art not pleased with sacrifices; * should
I offer a holocaust, Thou wouldst not accept it.
18. My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; * a
heart contrite and humbled, O God, Thou wilt not spurn.
19. Be bountiful, O Lord, to Sion in Thy kindness * by
rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem;
20. Then shalt Thou be pleased with due sacrifices,
burnt offerings and holocausts; * then shall they offer up bullocks on Thine
To these verses the Catholic Church usually adds:
21. Glory be to the Father and to the Son * and to the
22. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall
be, * world without end. Amen.
Along with King David, we should praise God for His
mercy, and offer Him the sacrifice of our contrite hearts.
Now, it shouldn't surprise anybody that after having us
read of David's sin and his repentance, the Church gives us this Epistle and
Gospel to read at Sunday Mass. David, in a very real sense, was “on his
own.” He was contrite, he could do penance, he could pray but he could only
hope that God would forgive him. He had no real assurance.
But, as St. Paul describes to us, we have positive
assurance of God's forgiveness.
He explains that we who have been baptized in Christ have been baptized in
His death. That is to say that through our baptism, our sinful selves died,
and our souls were reborn in God's grace. And we have this assurance, not
through any sort of hope, but rather we have it through faith our belief in
God and all that He has revealed to us.
Paul asks us to consider ourselves dead to sin, but
alive to God spurning even the opportunity to sin. But even when we fall
from God's graces, that same faith tells us that God will forgive us in our
repentance. And that forgiveness is something that we will clearly know
without doubt or hesitation when we hear the priest pronounce the words of
And finally, the Church reads us this Gospel. “I have
compassion on the crowd,” we hear our Lord saying. “Many of them have come
from far off.”
Just as those people journeyed with Him, we too are making a journey—40? 50?
60? 70? 80 years or more? And for that reason, our Lord provides us with the
Bread of Heaven for our journey the only Bread that provides us with the
strength necessary to remain in His grace in final perseverance.
So, we too can pray with King David, “Have mercy on me,
O God, in Thy goodness.” But our prayer is one of confidence. By faith in
our Lord Jesus Christ, we know that our forgiveness is assured all we need
to do is to ask for it. “Our old self is crucified with Him ... that we may
serve sin no longer.” And, unlike King David, we have the graces of
Baptism, Confession, and Communion.