ABUNDANCE VS. SCARCITY

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

            In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about the Law of Abundance vs. the Law of Scarcity. Covey explains that when you live in a world of scarcity, you always compete for available resources, even when there is an abundance of them. We have seen this a lot a few days before (and even during) the lock-down due to COVID-19 pandemic: people scrambling for the last bottle of alcohol and hand sanitizer, the last disinfectant sprayer, the last cup of noodle, the last can of sardines, beans and corned beef, the last box of pasta, the last roll of toilet paper, etc. When just a week before, the shelves in stores, groceries and supermarkets were stocked full of them.

            Fear of the unknown can cause people to think, behave and act with scarcity mentality. Scarcity mentality is the belief that there will never be enough. And such mentality results in feelings of worry, fear, anxiety, stress and distress. Obviously when you believe that there is not enough, you compete fiercely to get something for yourself.

            On the other hand, abundance mentality is grounded in the belief that there is more than enough for everyone. Such mentality can help us relieve our worries, fears and anxieties – especially during this hard time. Covey says that there is plenty to go around. And the more you give the more you have to give.

            What Stephen Covey is talking about is not something new. Jesus performed it two thousand years ago! Today’s gospel narrative of the multiplication of loaves and fish shows this truth of our faith: there is plenty to go around. There is plenty of Jesus to go around!

            We see in this story how Jesus enables his disciples to move from the world of scarcity to the world of abundance. Somehow we see them moving from believing that they have only a few, not enough – “five loaves and two fish are all we have” –to believing (and being surprised) that with Jesus they have more than enough to share. They see with their own eyes the law of abundance at work, not only are they able to feed thousands of people with all of them satisfied, but they are also able to pick up fragments or left overs – “twelve wicker baskets full.”

            Sometimes you feel as though you have little to offer, or that you cannot make an impact in this world. At times, you dream of being someone ‘important’ with vast resources and huge influence so as to be able to do “great things.” But the fact of the matter is that you can do great things with the ‘little’ or ‘small’ you have to offer. That is exactly what today’s gospel is telling us: God is able to take something very small, five loaves of bread and two fish, and transform them to do a great thing.

            According to the commentary of John Paul Thomas, this story is not only a miracle for the purpose of providing the necessary food for the crowd who came to listen to Jesus in a deserted place, it is also a sign to us of the power of God to transform our daily offerings into exponential blessings for the world.

            Here a great mystery becomes visible: What little we give away multiplies. This is how it is in God’s world of abundance. And this is where we are called to live our lives. The little possessions, resources and things we have…the little knowledge, wisdom and experience we have…the little kindness, generosity and love we have…are given to us as gifts of God to be given away. According to Henri Nouwen, the more we give them away, the more we discover how much there is to give away. The small gifts of God all multiply in the giving.

            The gospel story shows us that when we translate our care and compassion into positive action, the little we are able to do is multiplied by God’s grace in such a way that it becomes more than sufficient for the need. All that Jesus needs from us to feed the hungry crowds of the world, is our “five loaves and two fish.”

            The fact of life is that Jesus needs what we can bring him. We may not have much to bring but he needs what we have. Little is always much in the hands of the Lord. The miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish continues through us every time we give ourselves in faith to the Lord.

            Let us end with a prayer: Lord Jesus, You remind us that You need what we can bring You. We may not have much to bring but You need what we have. Teach us to trust You more, and hold on to this truth; that little is always much in Your hands. Lord, continue the miracle of feeding people through us. May we be generous in giving ourselves to You. Make us realize that every time we place the little we have, a great thing happens with us and through us. Amen.

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