Isaiah 55:1-3, Romans 8:35, 37-39, Matthew 14:13-21
There are times we feel God has turned His back on us. There are times we feel God hates us, and has abandoned us may be because of what we are passing through. But today’s readings reveal how God can care for us. God is love, God cannot but love. His loving nature ordinarily can be seen in how He continually cares and provides for all He created. Despite our sinful nature, God has continually loved us and tends for us. The readings of today reveal how caring, benevolent and compassion our God is. Jesus is God, and hence His nature is simply to love. Today’s gospel expresses how caring and loving Jesus can be. While we think He has abandoned us because of what we are passing, we even see that the same Jesus is eager to help those who are in difficulties. The gospel is a little narrative of how Jesus fed the crowd numbered about five thousand, with children and women excluded in the counting. To fully digest the message of today we have to go in depth in the gospel in exegetical style and then apply the messages in the first and second reading.
A Lonely Place
The beginning of the chapter of today’s gospel was a narrative on how John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod. After burying his body, John’s disciples came and told Jesus what happened. When Jesus received the bad news He withdrew to a lonely place. He did this maybe because of His closeness with John. He must surely have felt so bad to be greeted by such devastating news. He then went to a lonely place. But yet the crowds did not allow Him to be. The most surprising thing was that Jesus was not perturbed at their seemingly disturbance. There was no transfer of aggression from Him, He still welcomed them. What a loving Jesus? In His loving nature, Jesus can never send away anyone who comes to him (John 6:37).He makes Himself available to all. In Matthew 9:18, while He was still addressing John’s disciples, A leader of the synagogue interrupted Him, pleading for the healing of His servant, Jesus immediately left what He was doing and followed Him. A mark of love and humility.
When He Saw the Crowds
Immediately Jesus saw the large crowd he took pity on them and healed all the sick among them. Jesus went to have a little rest, Jesus does not need anyone to press on Him, Jesus wasn’t happy with the news He received, the expectant attitude of Him over the crowds would be that of harshness, but he began to pity them.
1.Because of the oppressive rule of the Romans that time, there was increased hunger and suffering in the land. The people were busy looking for who to alleviate the plight. At this time the rich were getting richer, feeding on the plights of the people. Just like Herod’s house was filled with feasting, while many were out there looking for what to eat. Jesus saw them in their predicament, he didn’t feel bad that they are disturbing his peace. He had mercy on them.
2.Whenever we approach Jesus, the first thing we learn is that He is full of mercy and compassion. As the Second reading states, there is nothing that can separate us from His love,not food nor lack of clothing. This is Jesus for you. Let us always approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.( Heb 4:16).
Give Them Something to Eat
At evening time, the disciples of Jesus reminded Him of the danger of keeping the people with them because it was a lonely place, the only solution was to send the people away so that they could buy something and eat. Yet Jesus insisted that ‘it is no need for them to go: He commanded His apostles “give them something to eat yourselves.”. Here we see a saviour who is not willing to abandon His people at the moments of need. Many might reject you, some may scorn you but Jesus can never abandon us at the point of need.
- Secondly,the disciples affirmed that what they have is only five loaves and two fishes, which mathematically and from every indication are not enough. But Jesus did not hesitate, teaching us to use even the smallest thing we think we possess to save souls and help those in need. Here one would expect Jesus to send the crowd away knowing quite well they don’t have enough, but instead He did otherwise. How do we treat the poor among us? How do we treat those who come to us at the moments of need? How many have we sent away? How many have we insulted? Will Jesus do the same? “Give them something to eat” is a command to every Christian out there to take care of the souls around us and in every position we occupy. It is a command to shepherd, feed,help nurture and protect those in need.
Bring Them To Jesus
Jesus told the disciples to bring the little they have to Him. Jesus knows that in Him there is no limitation, there is no impossibility. He can do all things. For the disciples they may never know how this might be, But Jesus knows.
1.Jesus also knows every secret about us. Jesus knows our secrets, Jesus knows how he can help us. The statement “bring them here” is not just a conditional statement but affirmative one. It is a command to the disciples. When we complain that things are not enough, Jesus says “bring them here”, when we feel like there is no hope in our lives Jesus reminds us “bring them here” when we feel marginalised, poor, in the midst of lack, possessing nothing, Jesus says “bring them here”! In the sense that Whatever we have, despite how little our resources, talents, gifts, might be, let us bring them to Jesus. He knows what to do, the ideas we need, the people to help us achieve our aim. In the midst of Lack, in the midst of nothingness, bring them to Jesus.
2.Just like the disciples did, we have to obey this command, if we truly want a change in our lives. The servants in John 2, at the wedding of Cana, obeyed this command and there was a miracle, It is always the will of God to save his people from lack, it is His will to feed His people like He fed the Israelites in the midst of hunger. (Exodus 16; Numbers 11). Both happened in the wilderness and when the people are so much dying in hunger. Jesus knows how you can survive with that small talent you think you have. Bring them to Him.
- Before Jesus fed them He first of all ordered the people to sit down on the grass; He calmed their nerves. The first reading says “pay attention, come to me; listen, and you will live. I shall make an everlasting covenant with you in fulfilment of the favours promised to David”.A reminiscent of His instruction in Mathew 11:28-30 “come to me all those who are weary and overburdened and I will give you rest” In his presence today, were the wearied and tired, people who are drained by the political nature of the time, people who are overburdened by the legalism of the pharisees, people who are passing though hunger and depression, Jesus allowed them to rest first. In His presence we can find perfect peace. Isaiah 26:3 says “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you”. David experienced this blissfulness when he says in Psalm 23 that God made Him to lie down in green pastures, and lead him beside quiet waters, to rest. A pointer that true peace can only be found in the Lord.
- Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessing. And breaking the loaves He handed them to his disciples, who gave them to the crowds. Here we come face to face with the power of prayers and thanksgiving. Jesus here teaches us where to present our situations, where to raise our resources, where to raise the little we have. Paul says in Philippians 4:6 that “in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”. Do we worry or do we pray? When was the last time we thanked God for the little we have? Now we can confirm what William Wattles, author of the science of getting rich, says “You cannot exercise much power without gratitude; for it is gratitude that keeps you connected with Power.”. “Gratitude draws the mind into closer touch with the source from which the blessings come”. And the highest prayer of thanksgiving is the Eucharistic Sacrifice: The Holy Mass.
4b. Here also we see the mediatory role of Jesus. He takes our gifts, presents them to the Father, and takes the blessings and gives them back to us to share to the world. We go to Jesus to find mercy and strength as His disciples, He then presents our requests to the Father, and draws blessings back to us in abundance. He gives us more to enrich the crowd , to fill the world with his blessings and graces. An indication that in His presence are extravagant graces.
- After this, there was multiplication. Everything that happened here is beyond the physical mind to understand. Five loaves and two fishes, for a crowd that were very tired and hungry, the number of women and children were not counted which in logical terms must outnumber the number of men who were counted, Jesus only thanked and prayed, there was no addition of more loaves, yet there were left overs.How come? We do not know, only Jesus knows how this can be possible. Virgin Mary was in this kind of dilemma at the annunciation “How can this be possible? The angel says that the The Holy Spirit will come upon you; the power of the most High will overshadow you (Luke 1:35). In the face of impossible cases, let us bring our case to the doctor of impossibility. When Jesus takes our resources, talents, plans,situations etc and presents them to God, multiplication happens, impossibility bows and everything is totally transformed.
1.Taking cognizance of the above exposition, one can then understand with Paul in the second reading said that nothing whatsoever should separate us from the love of Christ.Not even hardships, distress, or persecution, no lack whether food or clothing,no oppression either political, social or economical can withdraw us from Jesus, but sometimes when we face them, we lose faith, lost hope in God totally, Some said they prayed and nothing happened and the best solution is to lose faith. The truth still is, true peace is only in God. it is through his grace that we can pass through problems and persecutions and yet remain victorious at the end. This is why Paul says that “we come through all these things triumphantly victorious, by the power of him who loved us” The question then is why do we lose faith? Does it mean your problems are bigger than your God?
2. God’s Loving nature is so extravagant. The responsorial psalm says God is generous to all, his tenderness embraces all his creatures. He does not discriminate.That the crowd are following Jesus is not an indication that there is no single person there who does not hate him. There might also be people who came there for some selfish reasons but Jesus did not discriminate. He fed them all. How many times have we sought only for those who we think are standing for us? He asks in Matthew 5:46 “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Do not even tax collectors do the same?
3. Let us also use the little we have to save souls and help those in need. But today instead of doing this, we feed on the burdens of the poor, we use what we have to intimidate others, we count ourselves as lucky and others as so unlucky, we fill our homes, families, organisations etc with hatred, wickedness, unnecessary competitions and jealousy. Where do we go from here? Instead of worrying about the resources of the other person, take the little you have to Jesus. If others can be blessed, we also can be blessed. Jesus does not discriminate.
4.In the midst of impossibility, the crowd followed Jesus thick and thin. One thing with the crowd, like the centurion and the woman who suffered with the issues of blood,is that they did not wonder how Jesus might react, they just proceeded. But sometimes when we try to go before the Lord, we fill our minds with negative thoughts? What if God doesn’t answer? Will He answer? Is it today that I have prayed? And when we entertain such negative thoughts, we are invariably saying that God is not willing to answer us.
5. In whatever we do, in whatever position we occupy, do not forget to extend a helping hand to those around you. Never forget to give those around you something to eat, it can be material needs, support, financial assistance, job opportunities, spiritual food, prayers, encouragement,advice etc, Now the world is passing through challenges, remember those who are suffering around you.
6. It is good to point something good in the crowds, despite that Jesus left them, they were following Him even in the evening, they never wanted to go. Why do we easily give up? Where do we go when we are drained with hard situations? How many shrines have you visited to seek a solution? How many evil schemes have we championed just to meet up with life? Let us not forget that it is only in the midst of difficulties that our faith in God is truly tested. So Stay inspired, be blessed and remain faithful. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.
May God bless you dearest and help you to overcome your challenges. Amen Happy Sunday
Fr Okechukwu Ugwoegbu (Sanctus MArio)
Fr Okechukwu Ugwoegbu is a Catholic Priest of the Catholic Diocese of Orlu in Imo State Nigeria. He is a light bearer to souls who lose faith in God, the depressed, and those who are eager to know God more. He is a blogger and content creator and currently lives in Santa Cruz Parish Metro Manila Philippines. Email@firstname.lastname@example.org