JESUS THE SHARER: HOMILY FOR THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR (B)
BY REV. FR. BONIFACE NKEM ANUSIEM PH.D
The word sharer reminds me of my junior and senior Seminary days. During meals someone from each table was expected to pick the pot of food from the pantry and then share out to the members of his table. This exercise actually calls for caution, right thinking and equity. This is because the sharer may fall into the table fallacy of partial or biased sharing or worst still starving someone out rightly. Actually to starve someone from a higher class to that of the sharer is an offense with multiple consequences.
Beyond food sharer in the Seminary, it is a good and worthwhile thing to share with others, especially what one possesses. There are many things we can obviously share with others; they could be tangible or physical (like materials things), they could also be intangible (like moral and spiritual support).
Today our Lord Jesus Christ is presented to us as a sharer; in fact he is the ideal sharer, the sharer per excellence. Sharing summarizes why he came into our context. He came to share not only the word of God with us, but also his total self: “body, blood, soul and divinity”. Last Sunday we were told that our Lord upon seeing the devastated crowd who came in search of him, set out immediately to share the word of God with them and he did this at length because he taught them many things (Mark 6:34).
The gospel today from John (6:1-5) is actually a continuation of the event of last Sunday. At the end of his sermon it was late and the people were clearly famished from the long trek in search of him as well as the long but interesting sermon on many things. The session over, the apostles were eager to send the people away so that they could actually get a rest. Remember they were still to get rest after their apostolic work last Sunday. They were not done yet with work; Jesus asked Philip where they could buy bread to feed the multitude. After the feeding with word of God, Jesus is now extending his care from the soul to the body. This tells us that God has comprehensive care over us. Remember His words in Psalm 27:10.
The request made by Jesus to Philip in view of buying bread was like a difficult and unrealizable task. This reminds us of his question earlier in the crowd: “who touched my clothes” (Mark 5: 30). Philip gave a very straight and simple answer it is impossible to get such supply above all we don’t have such amount in the purse. Philip here sounded like the financial secretary, we know that Judas kept the money anyway. However Jesus was trying to find out what Philip would say because he already knew what he would do. Often when faced with some situations in life, we behave like Philip. We say it is not possible, we claim and assume that nothing can be done about the situation. Philip actually represents most of us who cannot see beyond what human power and resources can do. We often like Philip see fear where we ought to see faith.
But in all these Jesus knew exactly what to do. In your life God knows exactly what to do. In your challenges and hazels, God knows exactly what to do. Philip thought that money can answer and address the situation, but this happened to fall beyond the region of finance to the region of faith. It was at this point that we saw a flicker of faith coming from Andrew. He said that he could see a boy with five loaves of bread and two fish, but that will not be enough for the crowd.
I am particularly moved by Andrew’s statement. Andrew stands for hope, Andrew stands for optimism, Andrew stands for positive challenge unto God. Andrew understood the fact that God needs something from you before He came bring about multiplication. Something has to go forth before something comes forth. If you search the bible very well you will understand this underlying principle. You must bring something before you can get a whole lot. In Exodus Moses and Aaron had to bring something (their staff) for miracles to happen (Ex.4:3-4; 7:9,19;). In 1st Kings (17:12) the widow had to bring her last oil and flour before she got the miracle of abundance. In 2nd Kings (4:2) the widow had to bring her last oil before she got the amazing “oil well” in her room. In the First reading today too (2nd Kings 4:42-44) the servants of Elisha had to bring some bread which he multiplied. Often times we come with nothing while asking God to grant us increase. You sure must bring something no matter how small it may be. Jesus had challenged us in Mark (11:22) that no matter how small our faith could be, it is capable of moving mountains.
I am moved also by Andrew as an INTRODUCER. That was his function throughout the gospel. He introduced Simon Peter to Jesus from the gospel account of John of their call to become apostles (Jn.1:40-42). When some Greeks came to look for Jesus he was the one that took them to the Lord (Jn.12: 20-22). He did also introduce the good news to the people of Asia Minor and Greece and was martyred at Patras in Achea in Greece. Like Andrew we are called by virtue of our baptism to become introducers of the good news to people. We are called to see and introduce good things to others and not bad things. We know John to be the one always staying close to the heart of the Lord but I believe that Andrew knew more what was inside that heart.
Back to the situation, Andrew practically challenged the Lord to multiply the five loaves and two fish; a small boy’s lunch (may be for him and his siblings or may be what he came to sell at the “religious rally”). One striking thing was that the boy agreed to let go the five loaves of bread and two fish. He was extremely altruistic and charitable. I wonder what was going on in his mind as he was giving out all he had. How needful it is for us to let go especially when we genuinely have and there is legitimate need. Yes, Jesus multiplied the loaves of bread and the two fish, but this could only happen with the disposition and good will of a small boy who was willing to give. The miracle was performed by Jesus Christ but it was made readily possible by the small boy. From the five loaves of bread and two fish a great multitude was able to have dinner. From the benevolence of a small boy a great crowd went home satisfied. Sometime ago in a Children mass while reflecting on this passage a child asked me: “Fr! What happened to the remaining twelve baskets”. My answer was spontaneous: “they were given to the small boy and his family”. Though we were not told who took the remaining basket, but it is reasonable enough to establish that the small boy was given the remaining basket or shared them with the apostles who still had not eaten because they were busy sharing.
Sharing is an expression of Love. When we hear that we are created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26 ), we are simply being told that God gave us a share of His being. When we hear that God loved the world so much that he gave his son for our salvation, we are being told that God shared that which is so precious with us. The kingdom of God is where we can be through an attitude of sharing. Jesus shared the word of God, he shared bread and finally shared his life so that we can live not just now but forever. If Jesus Christ is a sharer of the things listed above and we are his followers, it follows then that we should be sharers of his word, sharers of his life, sharers of our blessings and material possessions.
According to the Millennium Development Goals annual report more than 850 million people go to bed every day without food and a child dies of hunger every 3 seconds around the world. The question is this: “don’t we have food to share?” Obviously there are many people out there who have so much to throw away and on the other hand there are so many others you have nothing to eat. Our refuge collection points boasts of loads of discarded food items and other commodities while so many stomachs are starving. There is call on us today to reproduce the caring and sharing Jesus and the small boy with five loaves of bread and two fish. There is a clarion on us to reflect the faith and optimism of Andrew while eschewing the “impossibility state-of-mind of Philip. Our world can be a better place we decide to share