Good Morning. It is good to be back among you while I am sojourning in Victoria. I would like to thank Fr. Stephen for allowing me to participate in the ministry of St. Francis at this time and thank all of you who have continued your love and support for my ministry during the past ten years. My how time flies.
This morning we heard a familiar story, the feeding of the five thousand. We often look at this story as an early foreshadowing of the Holy Eucharist, which I think is true, but there is much more to this story. This story can speak to us today at a time when we find ourselves socially isolated, when we worry about the health of ourselves and/or loved ones, when the economy is unstable, politics are divisive, and the weather is unpredictable.
Jesus was living in uncertain times. Israel was an occupied nation with Roman soldiers and authorities keeping the peace with the tip of a sword. Internal strife within the Jewish population was palpable. Jesus had just received news that his cousin John the Baptist had been beheaded by King Herod. John, who had announced Jesus’s coming and had baptized Jesus at the start of his ministry was a significant person in Jesus’ life and in support of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus had left the security of the family business and fellowship of close relations to begin his ministry on the open road. In the prior chapter of Matthew, we are told that Jesus recently returned to his hometown of Nazareth, but he was not received as a prophet, rabbi, or healer as he had been elsewhere. The people he had known all his life could only see him as the son of Mary and Joseph the carpenter.
As our story open, Jesus has just been told about John’s death and he gets in a boat to go to a deserted place to think and to pray.
During this pandemic, some of you have found you have more alone time than perhaps you are accustomed to having. This may be a blessing in disguise. As we slow down and become socially isolated, we are better able to connect with God through prayer and Bible study.
Other’s of you may have less time than you had before. Those who are first responders, work in health care or other essential services, those who are trying to work at home and homeschool their children at the same time may all feel overwhelmed. Jesus knew this feeling as well.
We are told in today’s lesson, that despite Jesus’ efforts to socially isolate himself to process the death of his cousin and the rejection of his calling by his family and friends, the crowd followed him pressing him to address their needs. Jesus looked at the crowd and we are told he had compassion on them. He set aside his own feelings and attended to their needs curing the ill.
This must have gone on for quite some time because the day was coming to an end when the disciples reminded Jesus that it was almost supper time. They suggested he send everyone home so they could eat in private. I wish I could have the expression on their faces when Jesus responded, ““They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They were out in the middle of nowhere. There was no pizza delivery and even if there was, what would it cost to feed 5000 families? Jesus just gave them what must have seemed like an impossible task.
I have been very fortunate. I have never had to worry about where my next meal was going to come from. The closest I ever got was a few months ago when panic about food shortages caused people to overbuy. Since I was still working, I didn’t get to the store until the early evening, and for several days in a row, the shelves were practically empty. I had money, but it was of no use with the restaurants closed and nothing on the shelves. I had to get creative and come up with something from what I could find or already had, but I was never in danger of missing a meal completely. I suspect the disciples were feeling a little like I was at that time, when they looked around and only found two dried fish and 5 pita breads, but with the added stress of having a huge hungry crowd at their feet. Rather than see the blessing and opportunity before them, they saw only the scarcity of the situation.
Jesus calls us to remember that God is always able to provide, but he does so through us. Jesus told the disciples to give him the fish and bread that they had. He blessed it, divided it, and then handed it back to share with the crowd. Now, when things seem uncertain, when we don’t know what tomorrow will look like, it is easy to be overwhelmed by our own needs and the needs of others, but if we trust Jesus, if we are willing to say, Lord, I haven’t much to offer, but all that I have I give to you – I think you will find that you will have all that you need and enough to share with others – enough physical, emotional, and spiritual resources to fill your cup to overflowing.
After everyone had eaten, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. This may be symbolic of the twelve tribes of Israel, but I suspect may have just been a sign to the twelve disciples that when they trusted Jesus with what little they had, they had more than enough for each of them.
I don’t know if this was a physical miracle that cause the fish and bread to multiply outside of the norms of nature, or if this was a miracle of the heart that evoked generosity in the heart of the crowd so that everyone shared what they had. Perhaps the latter would be the more difficult miracle, but I don’t think the how is what matters in this story. The important take away is to recognize that when we remember that all we have is gifted to us by God, when we trust God enough to be generous with others in our abundance, then there is hope that no matter what we are going through right now, between us all there is the physical, emotional and spiritual resources available to get through it.
Christ has already won the victory over all evil and we share in that victory as members of his body, so for today, let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord.