18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
FEED THEM YOURSELVES
Let me first state clearly the setting of today’s gospel narrative. Jesus receives the news that John the Baptist has been executed. Saddened at the death of his cousin, Jesus sets off with his disciples to find some solitude, a place where he can be relatively alone with his grief.
But Jesus is at the height of his popularity now. A large group of people follows him everywhere he goes. Instead of solitude, Jesus is confronted with more people in need of healing. And, of course, Jesus is moved with pity. He cannot observe suffering and do nothing. He has to help; he has to heal because he feels such great compassion for the people. In fact, he is so determined to heal as many people as he can that he loses track of time.
His disciples come and offer a helpful reminder: “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” “Dismiss them! Send them away!” That sounds distressingly familiar. When hungry people come to us or when we see needy people around, when we are confronted with the problem of hunger and poverty, many times we are tempted to ‘resolve’ the situation by using the tactic of the disciples: “Send them away!”
However, Jesus says, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” And the disciples reply, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have.” They feel that they just do not have enough to do that. The disciples are in the process of learning an invaluable lesson. Even though what they have to give is seemingly very little, with Jesus their resources are more than enough.
Often we feel overwhelmed by the needs and demands around us. Needless to say, the problems and crises we are facing now due to this pandemic are immense and enormous. The number of Covid-positive is still rising. Many have lost their jobs, livelihoods, businesses. Many are getting hungry and desperate. We just do not know how our meager resources can possibly help, but we bring what we can, we share what we can. And the Lord takes what we are willing to give, and blesses it, and uses it…and it is enough. No, it is more than enough!
I firmly believe that the Lord does the same for us, as individuals and as a community. Jesus is telling us: “Just give me your five loaves and two fish…Trust in me…I can use them to do mighty deeds.” The Lord wants to assure us that what little we give can make a difference –be it our little prayer and action to hasten the coming of God’s kingdom; be it our little witness to God’s mercy, compassion and love; be it our little generosity to practice Christian stewardship; be it our little service to be OLMMP mission partners; be it our little energy to foster a sense of community in our parish. Whatever little we can give, the Lord will make a difference.
We have a very important lesson to learn from this: What comes from God must be enough for all the people. The gospel is inviting us to look into our hearts and ask ourselves this question: How much of our lives, how much of what we have, how much of our resources are we currently placing in the hands of Jesus to do with as he wishes? Are we willingly and selflessly giving our own little bread and fish to the Lord?
The miracle of feeding hungry people needs to continue. How can this miracle continue to happen? The miracle of the multiplication of loaves, the miracle of feeding so many people continues through people who generously give all they have. The principle of multiplying resources is active in the lives of generous and selfless people.
We see how Jesus worked through the hands of his disciples to feed the hungry crowd. It still works that way today. The Lord calls us and uses us to do his work in the world, to literally feed hungry people. But we are also called to be God’s hands in spiritually feeding; the lost and the confused, the lonely and the depressed, the hurting and the broken people who live all around us. We are called to speak words of blessing, words of encouragement and inspiration, words of healing and restoration, words of hope and love to them.
The story of the feeding of the thousands of people shows that Jesus cares…that Jesus loves…that Jesus provides. And this story also shows that when we care, and when we translate this care into concrete actions, we follow Jesus in faith. We let Jesus empower us to do what we are called to do: to feed the hungry with the little we have. And we allow ourselves to be a part of a miracle…the miracle of caring…the miracle of love in action.