We have today the very familiar miracle of the loaves and fishes. One is tempted to say, “Oh that one…and tune out.” But, if we allow it, the gospel today contains a very personal appeal from the Lord’s lips to your (my) ears: “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
Immediately all the objections swim through our minds, but be still, and let us allow the Lord to instruct us and apply this Gospel in three stages.
I would like to apply this gospel in such a way as to illustrate our need to evangelize the culture in which we currently live. For it is a fact that there is an immense task before us that can overwhlem us, and yet the Lord still bids us to get busy and join him in feeding the mutltiudes.
I. THE IMAGE THAT IS EXTOLLED – The text says, Jesus went up on the mountain,and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him…
The text says that Jesus saw a large crowd. I wonder if we do? Generally today we think of declining numbers when it comes to Church life. This is because we tend to think in terms of members. Whereas Jesus more clearly thinks in terms of those who need to be reached. And, as we know well in our culture, the number of those who need to be reached IS a large number! And thus, while it seems clear to us that hte gospel is currently “out of season” we must never forget that everyone is precious to the Lord and that he wants to reach all and feed them with his grace and mercy, his truth and love.
So, the image that is extolled is need, not beleivers and non-believers. Is this how you and I see the world? Jesus sees all the world as a vineyard, as a mission field. He sees all as hungry, no matter how obstinant they are. It is a sad fact that many reject the food we in the Church offer today, and they may, in fact, deny that they are hungry. But in the end they are hungry and Jesus is about to ask our help in feeding them. Thus, while we may see opponents to the faith, this text lifts up an image that is more rooted simply in a universal human problem: hunger, physical and spiritual.
II. THE INSUFFICIENCY THAT IS EXPRESSED – The text says, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” Jesus said this to test Philip, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him,”Two hundred days?’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.'” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;but what good are these for so many?”
There is a human tendency to feel overwhelmed. And this tendency is understandable since the task of evangelizing and feeding the world is daunting to say the least.
Yet note that they are NOT without any resources. It may seem little, but it is not nothing.
And so for us who may seem overwhelmed by the cultural meltdown taking place before our very eyes. Everywhere we turn it seems that every number we want to be down, is up. And every number we want to be up, is down. The cultural war seems to be occuring on multiple fronts: family, marriage, sexuality, life issues, religious freedom, schools, church attendance, the rise of secularism and atheism, and bad notions of personal responsibility and self-control.
The list could go on, and it is not difficult to demonstrate that the disrepair in our culture is enormous. The task of evangelizing our culture may well seem far beyond a deficit of two hundred days wages.
But note that Jesus says, “Where can “WE” get enough” to solve the problem. For it is not only us, mere mortals, to resolve the grave issues of today. The Lord asks us to work with him. Now, it would seem, we have a dog in the fight.
III. THE IMMENSITY THAT IS EXPERIENCED – Jesus said, “Have the people recline.”Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,” Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.”So they collected them,and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves.
Now this story is so familiar that you and I are not shocked by the outcome. But no matter how many times we hear it, we still do not really accept it’s astonishing truth:
- I can do all things in God who strengthens me (Phil 4:13)
- All things are possible to him who believes (Mk 9:23)
- For man it is impossible, but not with God, for all things are possible with God (Mk 10:27)
- Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. (2 Cor 9:10)
Yes, We all know that this world is in an increasingly bad state. The problems seem overwhelming and our resources seem so limited to turn back the tide. What will we ever do with only five loaves and two fishes?
Jesus says, bring them to me.
Yet again, the journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step. The conversion of the whole world, begins with me. As I look the huge problems before me, I (this means you) assess my loaves and fishes:
- I work on my own conversion. For a holier world has to start with me. If I get holier, the world get’s holier.
- I look to the poor I can serve, maybe with money maybe with talents, like tutoring, counseling etc. Maybe just with the time of listening.
- I pick up the phone and call a family member I know is hurting.
- I love my spouse and children.
- I spend time properly raising my own children to know the Lord and seek his kingdom.
- I exhort the weak in my own family, and with love, rebuke sin and encourage righteousness.
- If I am a priest or religious, I faithfully live my vocation, and heroically call others to Christ by teaching and proclaiming the gospel without compromise.
- If I am a young person I seek to devoutly prepare myself for a vocation to marriage, priesthood or religious life.
- If I am older I seek to manifest wisdom and good example to those who are young.
- If I am elderly, I seek to devoutly prepare myself for death, and to give good example in this, and to witness the desire for heaven.
- I will pray for this world and attend mass faithfully, begging God’s mercy on this sin soaked world.
It is too easy to lament this world’s condition and, like the apostles, feel overwhelmed. Jesus just says, bring me what you have, and let’s get started. The conversion of the whole world will begin with me, with my meager loaves and fishes.
And Jesus will surely multiply them, he will not fail. Already there is renewal evident in the Church, through a faithful remnant willing to bring their loaves fishes, some of the things mentioned above and more besides. They are bringing them to Jesus and he is multiplying them. Renewal is happening, and signs of spring are evident in the Church.
There is an old saying that it is easier to wear slippers that to carpet the whole of the earth. Indeed it is. If it is a converted world you want start with yourself. Bring your loaves and fishes to Jesus, bring your slippers, and let’s get started. It begins with me.
This song says,
If I can help somebody, as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody, with a word or song,
If I can show somebody, how they’re traveling wrong,
Then my living shall not be in vain.
If I can do my duty, as a good man ought,
If I can bring back beauty, to a world up wrought,
If I can spread love’s message, as the Master taught,
Then my living shall not be in vain.