Many of us are probably familiar with the loaves and fishes story in today’s gospel. We may even be able to relate to Jesus, who wonders aloud how they are possibly going to feed the 5,000 people gathered, when faced with a seemingly impossible situation. So, what are we to do then, when we are faced with our own challenges; at home, at work, in our inner being, in the immensity of need in our world? And what are we called to do when all eyes turn to us for the answers to these problems?
The gospel today suggests three things
1. What you need is already there
Many of us think like Philip did in the gospel when we are confronted with a challenge. Philip commented that, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” Like Philip, we think of the costs, the time, the effort, and how even after all of that, it still may not be enough. We forget that so much of what we need we already have; within ourselves and within our community. God blesses each person with a set of unique gifts and talents that when brought together, when multiplied, can work miracles. We count the monetary costs and forget that the greatest treasures are the people the surround us. Each of us is called to give a small piece of ourselves to God and to our neighbor and trust that when all of those small pieces are brought together, God will make it enough to meet the needs in our lives and in our world. Just as Jesus multiplied the 5 loaves and 2 fishes that were offered to him by a child, our small prayers, our small offerings are small beginnings that can lead to lasting changes.
2. The power of prayer
Jesus takes the loaves and fishes, gives thanks, and distributes them to those present. Similarly, we are called to take what we have, give thanks, and offer to God to use for the benefit of those around us. Just as Jesus’ prayer multiplied the loaves and fishes, prayer multiplies our efforts and transforms us. In turn, God uses us to transform the world. We first need to make ourselves present to God to understand who we are called to be and to be filled with God’s love and grace.
3. Openness to God and to ourselves
For me, one of the most beautiful parts of this gospel is that Jesus takes the simple, small offering from a boy and multiplies it to feed thousands. The openness and willingness of the boy to share what he had gives us a powerful example that we are called to live out in our own lives. All too often we think that the little we have or the imperfect people we are is not enough. But nothing is impossible for God; nothing is too small, too imperfect, nothing is beyond hope, nothing is beyond the realm of possibilities in God’s plan. All God asks, is that we be open, that we give freely and humbly, and that we see the pressing needs of our world and offer to God the little we have and trust that He will multiply it infinitely.
So today, let us open our eyes, open our hearts to the need that surrounds us and prayerfully turn to God to take what we have to offer and multiply it for the good of our world.
St. Vincent de Paul Society – Milwaukee, Meal Programs Manager
2009-2010 Passionist Volunteer International in Honduras