We can readily identify with the disciples' feeling of helplessness in the situation. The gospel is not about a reasonable response of compassion extended to a few people in need. Rather, it is about having no resources to match the needs of a huge crowd of people we do not even know. There is no difficulty in recognizing this situation in our own world. About every four seconds someone dies of hunger…75% are children. The shocking statistic suggests the image of an avalanche, impossible to stop and compelling us to flee.
There are in fact many ways to distance ourselves from the countless people who are hungry and from the implications of this gospel. As spectators, we can reduce the mass of hungry people to the status of virtual reality on a screen. We can succumb to a kind of fatalism when we believe that absolute laws of the economy make it impossible for all people to have work, basic health care, and enough food to live.
The life implication of this gospel is simple: Jesus wants to work the miracle of feeding a huge number of people who are hungry; but the miracle will not happen without someone to provide five barley loaves and two fish. Jesus must have loved the boy who was willing to share what was really his to eat. The miracle of the gospel is as much about the boy as it is about Jesus. And today the boy is each of us who has something to offer the Lord. Jesus does not spiritualize the hunger of the poor, or postpone his love for them to the next world.
Jesus does not break off a tiny morsel of bread and a small piece of fish. He asks me how much I want: “Then Jesus . . . distributed . . . as much of the fish as they wanted.” It doesn’t make sense at first glance, but this is the way Jesus operates.
Jesus confidently offers us what we want because, confronted with the loving face of the Lord, our desire is transformed. G. K. Chesterton once said, “There are two ways to have enough in this world. One is to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” I imagine looking into the eyes of someone I truly love and who loves me – how could I be greedy? Could I ask for more than I need? That is God’s desire for us: everyone should find sufficient for life.
Today’s reality is different. In the Asian, African and Latin American countries, well over 500 million people are living in what the World Bank has called "absolute poverty". Every three days more people die from malnutrition and disease than from the bombing of Hiroshima even though we grow enough grain in the world to provide every man, woman, and child with a diet of 3000 calories.
Vatican II’s, Constitution on the Church in the Modern World states: “Since there are so many people in this world afflicted with hunger, this sacred Council urges all, both individuals and governments, to remember the saying of the Fathers: ‘Feed the man dying of hunger, because if you have not fed him you have killed him.’”
But the main problem posed in today's readings is not just whether we are willing to share but it is a problem of faith. "What is that among so many?" The problems are so massive our mind tells us that we can't solve the problem so take care of oneself. The word of God today strikes out against that attitude. God has given blessings to the world: if only we could learn to use those blessings for the benefit of all.
St. Paulfrom prison makes a plea for unity and solidarity among Gods people. "Lead a life worthy of your vocation." There had been long standing division between Jew and Gentile. Now St. Paulsays "bear with one another in love". "make every effort to preserve the unity which has the Spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force." "There is one body.. one Father of all."
Community demands that all of our gifts be for the service of all.. whether it be our personal, psychological or emotional strengths, our talents or education, our material assets or spiritual gifts of virtue.
I knew a doctor, a Plastic surgeon, who after he retired went regularly to various third world countries like Malaysia, offering his energy and expertise to thousands who couldn’t afford to pay. I just visited his son and family in Cranbrookwhile on my holiday. He would go for two or three months every year after his retirement. How easy it would have been for him to say, "What good is the little I do among thousands of suffering people?" Or as he leaves to return, he knows that thousands with just as desperate need were not served. Is this useless? It is just a drop in the bucket. But through his compassion and care miracles have been worked for individuals with cleft palates and other medical needs. How easy it would be for him to choose not to go to these countries at all. Ignorance of the suffering could be so much more comfortable than the knowledge of so many needs which go unanswered.
We may not be Plastic Surgeons, but each of us has a gift to offer. It is very interesting that it was not the owner of a Supermarket but a boy that responded in generosity in the feeding of five thousand. There will always be someone who is more talented , more gifted than yourself. Always someone who could do the job better, but the Lord asks you "Have you used the gift that I have given you to bring greater hope to my world, to alleviate suffering , to bring unity and justice? "
The next time you are asked for something you feel you cannot give, remember this Jewish boy and think again. Even if your gift is small, Christ will make it grow.
If you want to see your offerings to God multiplied, you have an essential role to play. You may not be working the miracle yourself, but you do need to get out there and do something! It’s impossible to know what that “something” is in each situation. We all have different gifts, different life situations, different opportunities that will present themselves today. But one thing is sure: Each of us will have an opportunity to do something important for the kingdomof God.
Starting today, try your best to be open to your Father’s promptings when it comes to the people you meet, the situations you encounter, and the movements of your heart. And then take a step in whatever direction you think he is leading you. The result may surprise you!
A hungry old woman prayed for food. Her atheist neighbor put bread and fish outside her door. She thanked God aloud. Her neighbor derisively shouted, "It was me and not your God who put food there." She replied, "Thank you, Jesus. You never fail me even if you have to use a devil to work a miracle."