2 Kings 4: 42-44 Ephesians 4: 1-6 John 6: 1-15
If we are accustomed to watching episodes of an on-going television series, it is relatively easy to understand what is happening in the accounts from the Gospel that we have been hearing on a weekly basis. Last week, for example, we left off with Jesus being moved with pity for the crowd that had pursued him despite his desire to take aside the Apostles to rest and recuperate from their teaching efforts. Now we pick up, this time from the Gospel off St. John, a similar setting if not, indeed, the same situation. Jesus looks over a large crowd that is following him, a crowd numbering in the thousands, and shows very great concern for them. He recognizes that they are hungry: hungry for his teaching and genuinely hungry for food. They needed to be nourished. God’s care for humanity is illustrated. God’s care of providing for our needs.
I consider it a curious detail provided by St. John that he records a reference to a young boy who happened to have five barley loves and two fish. Apparently this young boy was alert enough to be prepared. He was able to be the resource by which Jesus could proceed in accomplishing what was nothing less than a stunning result – even to the point of excess – in providing for a significant need of those who had followed him
It is this detail of the young boy’s foresight and resourcefulness that caught my attention. I have mentioned on different occasions before that in the culture of that time, children were of little significance and were often ignored. But, in this instance, a point is made that it was an otherwise insignificant person – rather than the Apostles or some other adult in the crowd, who provided the means for Jesus to accomplish his goal.
What this suggests to me is that the Lord’s purpose can be accomplished in unexpected ways, making use of unexpected resources. None of us ought to denigrate or play down ourselves and our ability to make use of whatever opportunity life presents to any of us to allow the goodness of God to be experienced through us. In other words: it doesn’t take much to make a difference.
Week after week we say that we are not worthy. This is true. We are not worthy of God’s goodness and love, we do not deserve it. But that does not diminish in any way God’s effort to love us and to make that love to be known through each one of us.
Think of how insignificant those five loaves and two fish were in comparison to a crowd of well over five thousand. Yet Jesus was able – in a manner that is not explained – to satisfy the hunger of all those people and have a significant amount left over.
St. Paul, from whom we also heard today, continued to remind the Christian at Ephesus that despite their differences in background and tradition, they were one, they were united, in their faith. Because of the effect of that shared faith in Jesus Christ, they were able to adopt a manner of living, a life-style that reflects such qualities as humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace. In effect, these qualities are the few loaves that can transform our lives and transform the lives who are touched by us. It does not take much to make a difference.
In the weeks to come we will hear from the Gospel of John what is known as “Bread of life discourse.” It is the effort of Jesus, through the dialogue that is recorded, to explain the meaning of his continuous Real Presence with us in the Eucharist. Our attention will be on how that abiding presence is with us in the Eucharist. But it would do us well to keep in mind how this story started: it was a very little bit which enabled a tremendous result to occur. Every little effort on the part of each of us can have a significant effect in making known, and making appreciated the presence and love of our good and gracious God.