ORDINARY 18 (A)
Bring them here to me. – Mt. 14: 18
So often when presented with a difficult situation, our calculating approach to things is to assess what resources we have & see if they are adequate to the task. Common sense, right? Certainly, that is what the disciples are doing in today’s Gospel. And when we realize that our resources are so little, we become discouraged & frustrated. So we look around to see if our need can be met elsewhere, in this case, go to the nearest town to buy what is needed.
As usual, Jesus turns the problem into a teaching opportunity. He redirects the disciples’ attention from what they do not have to what they have. Rather than seeing it as too little, they should see it as God’s gift. Knowing what you have is the first step of spiritual transformation. Then Jesus gives thanks for what they have. It is an enormous step from complaining to being thankful. Finally, they pass it on to others, who in turn give it to yet other people. No one takes & holds; everyone receives & gives.
It teaches us that our small talents have been blessed & returned to us, & so we too must feed the crowd from what we have, however paltry that may be. Here’s a fable to make the point:
A little sparrow is lying on its back with his feet up in the air. A rooster comes along & asks what he is doing. The little sparrow replies, “Chicken Little said the sky is falling & I’m trying to hold it up.” “What?” exclaimed the rooster, “Do you think a little twerp like you can hold back the sky?” The sparrow replied, “One does what one can.”
With what we have, no matter how few our loaves & fishes, we do what we can because Jesus has asked us. When life gets the best of us, perhaps it is often because we focus too much on how little we have & too little on how much Christ can do. When all the anxieties have passed, the worries gone & the crosses disappeared, one thing will remain: God’s love.
When people of faith find themselves in the desert, as many do today, how should they proceed? First, by determining what they do have rather than what they do not. Second, give thanks to God for what their practical minds construed as too little. Finally, stop looking upon those in need as consumers, but as the first recipients of what they too would learn to give away.
I think this process has a direct application to our parish. All too often we focus on what we see to be wrong, or on what seems to be lacking. Too often, I think, we allow that assessment to discourage us from attempting anything at all. What would Jesus do? His prospects were certainly not promising. Many Jews would receive His message, but many more would reject it. Even His own disciples quite often did not seem to get it. Yet what He started now encompasses the whole world.
I think our problem is not that we think too big, but we think too small. What we need to do is to truly give what skills & weaknesses, what strengths & fears we have to our Lord to bless. When He returns them to us, our job is to share what we have with others, so that they in turn can do the same. Our faith must be in our Lord whatever our shortcomings may be. It is He alone who can make our efforts fruitful. AMEN!