18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
A popular preacher and a very pious Christian was invited to give a talk to a large group of women belonging to a religious organization. These women were being challenged to raise ten million pesos for a mission project and they were setting their goal.
While waiting for his turn, the preacher was asked by the chairperson to pray for God’s blessing as they considered their individual responses to the goal –also implying that God might send some “external help.” The preacher stood and, to the amazement of everyone present, graciously said, “No, I won’t pray for that.” He approached the microphone and explained, “You already have the resources necessary to complete this mission project right here within this room.” “It would be inappropriate to ask for God’s blessing, when in fact God has already blessed with the abundance and the means to achieve this goal.” “The necessary gifts are in your hands.” “As soon as we make our commitments and pledge our resources, we will thank God for freeing us to be the generous, responsible and accountable stewards that we are called to be as Christian disciples.” Everybody did make a commitment and the project was realized without any outside assistance.
What happened in that conference is just a small representation of the great story in today’s gospel reading: the multiplication of loaves and fish. It is interesting to note that Jesus does not attempt to feed all those hungry people by himself. He calls upon his disciples to share what they have. He tells them to bring their little provisions to him. Even though what they have is not very much –just five loaves and two fish for thousands of people –they are able to feed and satisfy that huge crowd. And still have much left over.
In other words, Jesus does not produce food out of nowhere. He takes the little that the apostles have and multiplies it a thousand fold. That is really the point of the miracle story. How it happens we do not know. What we learn from the gospel story is clearly this: Whatever a person generously gives and shares, no matter how little or small, in the hands of God it is multiplied and it becomes enough and sufficient.
In our common need we are to share what we have received. We are to give not because we have a surplus, not because we do not need it, not because that is what most people do. We give because our need is to share who we are and what we have, even though we may have very little. When we do that, we allow ourselves to be used by God to feed the hungry people among us and around us.
Week after week, we gather as the people of God, even just online and by spiritual communion, to be nourished by the word and to share in the breaking of the bread and the one cup. As we are renewed in faith, hope and love, we are sent forth from this gather into our own personal worlds –be it our home, our community or social network. We share what we have received with the poor who are hungry, with those who are ill (physically, emotionally, mentally), with those who are lost, confused and troubled, with those who are filled with worries and anxieties, with those who are hungry for our love and affection.
With God’s grace and power, his mercy and love, we have the means to multiply the little we have to give and to nourish many others. In some beautiful and mysterious way, there is a further miracle. As we share and feed the hunger of others, we in turn are also fed. St. Francis is right: It really is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying to self and selfish concern that we are reborn to everlasting life.
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 give all they have. The principle of multiplying resources is active in the lives of generous and selfless people. I believe miracles can happen in this parish when parishioners deeply care for our community and for our less privileged brethren. Great things can happen when we share generously our bread and fish, inviting and impelling the Lord to multiply them. I call this “the miracle of the multiplication of generous hearts.”
My dear OLMM parishioners, may each one of you become a part of this miracle. When confronted with a need, the right question to ask the Lord is not: “Where shall I find this or that?” Rather, we should sincerely ask the Lord: “Jesus, what is it I have that you want to multiply?”