A Problem; Two Approaches; and a Miracle
This weekend, we begin a series of Gospel readings from St. John’s sixth chapter that relate to Jesus as the “Bread come down from heaven” – “the Bread of Life.” It is John’s reflection on Jesus’ sharing of Himself in the Eucharist and what that means for the Church and for us individually. I think it is apropos of our current work as a Pastorate to forge a community of faith that takes up the task to evangelize our community – to bring the knowledge of and love for Jesus to our friends, neighbors, and families. Just like all miracles, Jesus’ incredible action begins with a problem – and two ways of looking at it.
For Jesus and the Apostles, the problem is the need to feed so many people who have followed them to that remote place. Jesus realizes that these people need to eat – remember last week, when He pitied them as “sheep without a shepherd.” So, He asks His followers how they were going to supply the needed nourishment. Philip responds with one way of looking at this vast problem: he complains.
"Two hundred days' wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little," he whines. In other words, “This is impossible! We can’t do it. There’s no way.”
Before Jesus responds to this, we hear another way of looking at this problem. Andrew understands how big of a task it is, but he also looks around himself and discovers something – anything: “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” The boy, through the Apostle Andrew, offers the little that he has. He sees this problem in the light of Jesus’ need to feed these people. Regardless of how small that offering may be, there is a glimmer of faith and trust in his gift. Rather than complain, he makes a sacrifice.
And it is enough.
It is enough because Jesus makes it enough. He receives the gift, faithfully given, and accomplishes His work. A situation that begins with a problem (a seemingly impossible one) ends with a miracle - and glory given to God.
Friends, this is our task as a community of Parishes – as disciples, gathered around Jesus. Christ sees the need to feed so many of our neighbors, friends, and family members, and He turns to us to answer that need. There’s not a lot of money; heck, there aren’t even a lot of us! However, Jesus still turns to you, to me, and simply states the problem: “Where can we [find] enough for them?”
Is our response like Philip? Do we whine or complain about what we don’thave? Is our vision so set on the absence of what we want that we miss the Lord in our midst? When we have Him, we have all we need! The trick is to trust Him and to be generous, even with the little we think we have. In the task of evangelization, we may believe that we are not qualified, that we know nothing, that this task belongs to someone else. That was Philip’s approach. Andrew, on the other hand, looked around and saw potential – even in an insignificant little boy; and Jesus brought that gift to its full fruitfulness so that everyone had what they needed – what He wanted them to have.
Afterward, Jesus has the Apostles “gather the fragments left over.” The word He uses is “synagagete” meaning “to gather together.” It’s directly related to the word for “synagogue,” and from that idea we get the word for church, “ekklesia,” the place of the assembly, called together. In other words, the result of Jesus miracle – made possible through the simple faith of a generous little boy – is the gathering of believers. Brothers and sisters, our task of revitalizing the Church on the North Point Peninsula in Southeastern Baltimore County is totally possible – because Jesus is calling us to it. The only way, however, that we can accomplish it is to follow the path of Andrew – to open ourselves up in trust and faith to Jesus, and to put our gifts on the line for Him.
Let’s pray this week for the faithful trust that what Jesus is asking of us is not only possible, but that it is also destined to be fruitful – leading many of our friends, relatives, and neighbors to the saving nourishment that Jesus provides.