Jesus Gives Infinitely More Than Enough
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We continue to see the compassion of God for his people this week in the miracle of Elisha in the first reading (2 Kings 4: 42-44) when his servant feeds a hundred men with twenty barley loaves, and with much left over. Earlier in the same book Elisha helps an impoverished widow whose sons are to be sold into slavery because of her debts. Elisha tells her to gather jars from her friends and from the one jar of oil she fills all the others and sells what she does not need to repay her debt.
The oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit: it flows when you give it away. Maybe you don’t see it flowing in your lives. Could it be that there are no empty vessels in need of God in your life? When you commit yourselves to ministering to others, when you seek them out, the Holy Spirit will flow from you perpetually, and you can fill them. You will strike oil!
The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish is a very early preaching of Jesus and is in all four gospels, which shows its importance! It is the only miracle that is treated this way. It shows the compassion of Christ, the important reality of the Eucharist, the apostles as priests of the New Covenant acting as Christ and being intermediaries between God and men.
John points out that the Jewish feast of Passover was near (John 6: 1-15). Jesus is the new bread of the Passover, something much different than manna in the desert. Jesus takes the initiative in this miracle and becomes the Nourisher of Men. The apostles have no idea of what is about to happen and the role they are going to play. They think only about what it will cost, and about the littleness of what they have: “What good are these (five loaves and two fish) among so many?” We often say the same: what difference could I make in a world or family or office or neighborhood with so many complications and issues that are beyond me?
But God likes small things. A small stone kills Goliath, a small servant girl leads Namaan to a prophet who heals him, and a young woman becomes the Mother of God. Perhaps the solution to an insurmountable problem is very close to you, something small, and close to you. God’s ways are very subtle.
In this miracle there is a perfect supply of grace: one loaf of bread feeds a thousand people, one basket of left-over for each apostle. One day I saw the Brinks truck pull up to the parish and I started laughing. Unfortunately, it was Brinks Asbestos Removal Company. However, there is nothing wasted in the gospel, or in the smallest thing you do for the Lord. Everyone is totally satisfied, especially in light of their pitiful condition at the start. Their care for the fragments shows that this is not just mere bread.
When you feel weak do what the Lord tells you. A small insignificant action can have eternal rewards. The apostles only ask the people to recline and distribute the food, but the miracle doesn’t happen without them. So get involved in the Church and serve; your rewards will be in great excess of what you do.
Do what the Lord sets before you, no matter how mundane. There ought to be a correspondence between God’s giving and man’s willingness to receive. If the people didn’t recline the miracle would not have happened. Be willing to receive the Lord, be open to him. In the convent chapel the priest goes to each person and gives the Eucharist because the space is too small for the congregation to make lines. It is a great image: God comes to each one of you to give you what you need. Be open to what he is doing and saying to you!