Little gifts, big results! (John 6:1-15)
I know a hard-working, family woman who dreads the run-up to Christmas and Easter. It’s not because of the spiritual and temporal preparations they imply, but because, as she says, it seems that ‘every time I sit down to have a cup of tea and a biscuit in front of the television, a picture of a hungry child from some famine-stricken country is flashed on the screen in front of me!’
Pope Benedict XVI noted in his 2009 encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), that hunger “still reaps victims among those who, like Lazarus, are not permitted to take their place at the rich man’s table” (n. 27). He reminded us that “feed the hungry” is an ethical imperative that flows from the Gospel. It is the imperative that St. Vincent de Paul, Trócaire and a legion of other organisations and individuals respond to every day at home and abroad.
Poverty and hunger are found in more than just physical forms. Alongside the many millions of people in our world who physically hunger for bread, there are millions more who are starved of the compassion, love, truth, justice of the Gospel and of knowing Jesus Christ. There is, too, the poverty of people who recognise the needs and hungers about them and yet forget the gifts and talents God has blessed them with. Apart from the global needs for food and water, sometimes the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the people with whom we live and work can seem to overwhelm us. Maybe we feel that we have only five-loaves-and-two-fish-worth of energy and resources in the face of the demands of 5000 needy people. Yet, five loaves and two fish proved enough!
Neither the Gospel proclaimed nor the Church gathered to celebrate the Eucharist this Sunday offer a magical solution to the daunting challenges of peoples’ hunger before us. They do assure us that God blesses every single effort that we make to attend with compassion to his hungry people. Take a moment to look a little closer at St. Andrew’s role in the Gospel. He’s one of those characters that we can note and still ignore if we’re not careful; yet, almost every time he is mentioned in the Gospels, we’re told he is bringing someone to Jesus: an unnamed disciple of John the Baptist; St. Peter; the Greeks who say they want to meet Jesus; the boy with five barley loaves and two fish. Where Philip reacts with despair to Jesus’ teasing question, Andrew finds someone with seemingly little to offer and then simply trusts Jesus to do the rest.
In the context of the Year of Faith the Church prepares to celebrate beginning next October; even more immediately with the Summer Youth Festival in Clonmacnois almost upon us, we might try be a little more like Andrew. Perhaps all we can do for now is use the gifts and talents we do have to introduce someone to the Lord by our words, our actions and our joy; and then trust Him to do the rest.
Fr Tomás Kehoe