If you die today what would you be leaving behind? I don’t mean money or any other material possession; I mean for what would people remember you? Would someone somewhere say, this man or woman amazingly touched my life? Would someone spare a tear for you because you gave him or her a reason to live?
The ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ could be said to be that of touching and transforming lives. He preached the word of God to the hungry souls, he healed the sick, he raised the dead and, in the Gospel, today (John 6:1-15 ), Jesus sets out to feed a multitude (five thousand men, excluding women and children) with five loaves of bread and two fish. For Jesus Christ, it was all about multiplying and sharing for both the spiritual and the physical needs of the people.
The Gospel Reading today has a serial connection with the Gospel of last Sunday which tells about the return of the apostles from their mission and how a multitude of people came in search of Jesus and the apostles. The pilgrimage to Jesus Christ was so overwhelming that the apostles had no time to eat as they set out attending to the spiritual needs of the people.
Last Sunday, our Lord Jesus Christ saw them as sheep without a shepherd, and he sets out teaching them many things. After feeding them with the food of the soul, he discovers this Sunday again that they are like a famished herd of sheep and he decides to supply them with solid food to nourish the body. The First Reading (2 Kings 4:42-44) tells us about the feeding of a hundred prophets with twenty barley loaves through the prayers of Elisha the prophet.
Philip, Andrew, The Boy with Bread and Fish, and the man from Baal-Shalisha
To feed a crowd of people in the magnitude of five thousand and more today would require the efforts of several fast food outlets put together with extremely efficient waiters. In this context, however, they had nothing, and Jesus says to Philip, “where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” But this was a test as the narrative tells us as Jesus knew what he was going to do.
Philip gives an honest answer by stating that two hundred days’ salary would still be insufficient to give them a little food. Philip’s answer indicates that they could not feed the crowd. Philip failed the Lord’s test which is the test of faith, the test of believing that there could be a possibility in the face of impossibility. Philip only needed to say “Lord, we can have more than enough, just tell us what to do.”
As the test was going on Andrew, who seems to be a close friend of Philip, enters the discussion with a faith-inspiring suggestion, “there is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Andrew represents faith and hope amid hopelessness and faithlessness. Andrew was right; God does not need so much to do so much; He instead needs something from you no matter how little (Mark 11:22).
At this point, we turn to the boy with the five barley loaves and two fish. The Gospel writers did not tell us the name of the boy in question which is very instructive for us in this reflection. Names are significant in all the stories in the Bible, and when we do not have a name attached to a character, it means that there is a potential moral or spiritual engagement with the reader. In this instance, the boy represents all of us.
The most exciting thing about the boy is his willingness to give away his five barley loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus performed the miracle of the feeding of the multitude, but the desire of the unnamed boy to share his bread and fish made it timely. More than five thousand people ate and had enough because someone in that crowd was willing to share.
The miracle of the multiplication could happen because a little boy made a selfless donation. It is vital for us to know that the boy in question did not give because he was expecting the miracle of multiplication. His willingness to let go of what he had for a useful purpose, and from that donation, everyone had enough.
The donation of the five barley loaves and two fish in the Gospel Reading resonates with the gift of twenty barley loaves from a man from Baal-Shalishah to Elisha. The gift turned out to be an excellent meal for a hundred prophets when the prophet Elisha prayed for divine multiplication. Again, we learn here that giving leads to multiplication and extends to sharing.
Lessons on Giving, Multiplication, and Sharing
The greatest enemy you may often confront in life is “yourself.” We are often overwhelmed by the “self” that we think little about others. Our excessive emphasis on ourselves is part of the failure of our spiritual growth. Giving is one of the ways of getting out of ourselves and reaching out to others.
The secret of giving is that it increases the giver (Prov. 11:24). Luke 6:38 says, “give and IT will be given to you. A good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap…” A pertinent question one could ask is, “what is the “IT” that would be given to the giver?” The answer is simple, what the giver gives would be multiplied. In another place, the Bible tells us that givers never lack (Prov. 28:27).
The message today is not really about the power of God to perform miracles in our lives; every day is a miracle from God, and we are living testimonies of divine miracles. The core of today’s message is about compassionate giving and sharing. There is an invitation to us to follow the examples of our merciful Savior, Jesus Christ and the charitable giving of the boy with the five loaves of bread and two fish and the man from Baal-Shalishah.
Why do we have so much poverty in a wealthy world? Notwithstanding the effort to eradicate extreme poverty according to one of the millennium development goals of United Nations Organization, about 800 million people are still living in abject poverty. We need more people with loaves of bread and fish; the world is in dire need of more men from Baal-Shahanshah to share the resources of the world, mainly by feeding the hungry.
Do you prefer to send your left over to the bin or to share it with those who have nothing to eat? Often what we refer to as waste could be wealth to someone somewhere. After the miracle of feeding the five thousand, there was no waste. The twelve baskets of bread and fish that remained after the meal served the need of others who were not present on the site of the multiplication.
As we reflect on the message of this Sunday, may we resolve to become givers and sharers as we potentially experience divine multiplication. Have a great Sunday and a wonderful week ahead.