Eddie is a young man in our parish. On Saturday mornings he rises early and with the help of family members and friends he prepares food to take to homeless people for their breakfast. This is noteworthy and praiseworthy, but for Eddie and his mother this is no big deal. I have to believe that somewhere in the souls of Eddie, his family and friends are embedded the words of Jesus that we hear in today’s Gospel, “You give them something to eat.”
As we read this story of the feeding of the multitude in today’s liturgy, it is worth noting that there are some major similarities in the three synoptic Gospels. The disciples bring their concerns to Jesus regarding the lateness of the hour and the need for the people to go away and take care of themselves. They have a simple solution – Jesus should dismiss the crowd. But Jesus counters with another solution – “You give them something to eat.”
The disciples are expecting Jesus to do something about what they perceive to be a problem. Jesus, in turn, calls on them to do something about the situation. Then, Jesus asks for the available food to be brought forward. It doesn’t look like very much. However, Jesus receives what is available with prayer and gratitude. Then he blesses what they have and breaks it so that it can be shared. The words used are very similar to those used to describe Jesus actions at the Last Supper, where He describes the bread, broken and shared, as his own body, and then tells the disciples to do the same in his memory, be the broken bread. Here in the desert, there is no doubt a celebration of Eucharist. The Reign of God is no longer being described in images, but lived out in action.
In his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope”, John Paul II wrote that we have the resources to end every social issue that exists, but what is lacking is the will. The UN World Food Program tells us that we can end world hunger in this generation. The resources and the technologies are available, but where is the will? Jesus’ disciples had problems with the will, but Jesus could change that will among the people in the desert until everyone had sufficient from the available resources.
This story is not about some great thing that Jesus did. This is a message to challenge us in the use of our resources. Have we received them with gratitude, blessed them, and then broken them and shared them so that all can eat and be satisfied? When we look in the face of global hunger, it is not enough to pray, unless we are open in that prayer to hear the command of Jesus, “You give them something to eat.”
This is what stirs Eddie, his family and friends on a Saturday morning, and so many people like them. Has it stirred me? Has it stirred you? It is the message that we receive today from the Gospel of Jesus. It is not an urging, but an order, and we had better be stirred by it, so that it becomes embedded in our souls too.
Elizabeth Ferguson, OP