In the readings of this Sunday we find a situation that can be stressing; the kind that quite a good number of people are going through: confronted by so many needs but very limited means to respond to them. However, in the end everyone has more than enough bread to eat. How, then, does the word of God exhort us to face such struggles of our daily life?
Bible readings 2 Kings 4 : 42–44 Psalm 145: 10–11, 15–18 Ephesians 4: 1–6 John 6: 1–15
Bless the Lord my soul…never forget….
Looking at the readings of this Sunday, I can’t help evoking this psalm: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and do not forget all His kind deeds….” (Psalm 103:2). It’s a call to say thank you to God for his blessings showers upon us, against the “grabbing attitude” as you would find in small children. When you give them something, they receive as if they are simply taking what belongs to them. That’s the moment parents come in to educate them: “What do you say?” Then, the child remembers and say: “Thank you”. That’s indeed good education to train a child to receive a gift with gratitude. But the parents who so educate their children, do they really know to say thank you in their lives? And what does it mean to say thank you?
Of course, we too have been trained, since childhood, to say thank you; yet, that may have become a mere polite word. I think, gratefulness calls for more than just politeness. Happily, the word of God for this Sunday can inspire us in this regard.
In the first reading we have a man who brings bread in thanksgiving to God from his new harvest. What is this about? Well, majority of the Hebrew people were peasants, that is, they earned their living by cultivating the land. They knew well that though you may work hard in the field, plant choice seeds and tend well your farm, however, that alone could not guarantee a good harvest. There are other things that are equally important, rain for instance; if there’s too much or too little, you risk losing everything. That’s why in their work they saw not only their effort but, rather, they recognised also the blessings of God through nature that was favourable to the growth of their plants. It’s for this reason that they could offer to God the first fruits in saying thank you; and that’s the meaning of the bread that the farmer offers in the first reading. His bread serves to feed people who are hungry. There we realise that being grateful for what we have received is not just about being polite, with “thankyou” but rather acting in the manner that benefits others. Indeed, God blessed Abraham, and through him all nations would be blessed too. And so, each one can ask oneself: how is my neighbour being blessed through me? If they are, then, it’s a good sign that I’m being grateful to God.
Breakthough in a Christian community
Both in the first reading and in the Gospel we have many people who are hungry than but very small amount of food available. That’s why this farmer who offers bread in thanksgiving he’s hesitant to obey Elisha who tells him to give it to the people to eat. Similarly, the disciples are anxious about what to do with a such a crowd, even the little bread and fish that a child has, what difference will it make? Despite such tricky situation, in the end, and in both cases, people eat to their satisfaction and there’s something left over. Isn’t that a breakthrough?
Yes, in our different situations like sickness, economic precarity, or relational problems we are praying and hoping for a break through. Probably, we look forward to a kind of breakthrough that is miraculous and self-centred. Yet, the breakthrough we see in the readings is that where God acts through people themselves. Through that little, and apparently insufficient contribution, even coming from a fragile person as a child, that many people are fed. Isn’t that a breakthrough?
Perhaps these readings encourage us firstly to dare and begin whatever project we have at hand. Let’s not be people of defeated mind-set, people who are afraid to try. Jesus is saying, don’t hesitate, don’t be afraid. Bring what you have; despite your fears and fragility come forward and offer them to him with trust. With Jesus our humble efforts and contributions will become the means through which others can experience a breakthrough in their lives, hence, we become Christian communities that manifest God’s love and bounty.
Bread for common person
Both the first reading and the Gospel talk of the bread of barley. The Hebrews had barley and wheat from which they made bread. Barley, despite being nutritious, nevertheless, was considered as lower grade than wheat. So, bread from barley would be for a common person -a poor person’s bread. That’s the bread that Jesus multiplies. This sends me thinking!
In our countries, often, we hear of economic growth explained in terms of figures, percentages, but concretely, the rich become richer; and poor poorer. We live in the world that multiplies bread for the rich, and the poor go hungry; but Jesus multiplies bread for the poor, for the common person. Perhaps that can be a good challenge for us: how does my action today help to perpetuate Jesus’ attention to the little ones of our society? Where do I put my attention? Where’s the place of the little ones in the way I interact with others? So, each one can ask oneself: what am I going to do in order to multiply bread for those little ones?
I’m called to be a blessing for my neighbour
Dear brothers and sisters, faced with our own preoccupations, we pray ceaselessly hoping for a breakthrough. That breakthrough may come, but certainly not like a big bang. As Christians, we are agents of breakthrough for others. It’s through us that others can be healed, have something to eat or deal with their difficulties. Indeed, at times needs may appear beyond our reach, yet, as the word of God encourages us; each person, in their fragility, let them bring their contribution. Our faith in God, and indeed the miracle we can expect, is to allow God to give fecundity to our human effort. And when we say thank you, others are blessed too through us.
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