18TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A ON AUGUST 2ND, 2020 (R. 1: Isaiah 55: 1- 3; Psalm 145: 8- 9, 15- 18; R. 2: Romans 8: 35, 37- 39; Gospel: Matthew 14: 13- 21)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
BRING WHAT YOU HAVE!
A young lady was invited to a job interview. She was running late for the interview. When she arrived, to make matters worse, there was no parking space for her. She drove around the parking lot; there was no space. She stopped, looked up to heaven, and prayed, “Lord God, please, forgive my sins. If you find me a parking space now, I promise you, for the rest of my life, every Sunday, I will go to Mass, I will stop drinking alcohol, and I will stop smoking.” Miraculously, a parking space opened up right in front of her. She then smiled, looked up to heaven again, and said, “Never mind, Lord; I already found one myself.”
Matthew presents Jesus as the promised Messiah. For Matthew, Jesus was able to prove that he was the promised Messiah through his words and his deeds. In his words, Jesus proved himself the greatest of all teachers, greater than the Scribes, greater than the Pharisees, and greater than all Rabbis. One unique thing about his teaching/preaching is his perfect use of parables. In the aspect of his deeds, Jesus was able to prove that he was the Messiah through the various miracles that he performed.
The last three Sundays were dedicated to reflections on the teaching aspect of Jesus, the Messiah, specifically on seven of his parables. Beginning from today, we are shifting our attention to the actions/deeds/miracles performed by Jesus, the Messiah, to back his teaching. The first of these miracles is the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish to feed the multitude. This miracle is so important that it appears up to six times in the four accounts of the gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).
Today’s gospel passage begins by telling us that after Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew into the desert, a place that political and religious leaders considered as useless and empty of essential resources. However, for Jesus, the desert was the place that opened up the human mind to acknowledge divine providence and divine superabundance. A critical observation about today’s miracle is that unlike some other miracles where a request precedes a miracle, this one came as a result of his compassion for the suffering people. This miracle becomes a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah in the first reading where God, in His love for humanity, summons the hungry and thirsty that they may eat and drink free of charge. Unfortunately, we sometimes prefer to waste our resources on things that will eventually hurt us.
Before performing the miracle, Jesus saw the crowd, he took pity on them, and he said to his disciples, “Give them some food yourselves.” This command from Jesus brought about various responses. We can identify three of these responses. In doing this, we have to look at not only the account presented by Matthew, but also that presented by John (6:1-13). First: there was the response of Philip, which was a response of unbelief. Philip focused more on what he lacked than on what he had. He said, “Two hundred silver coins would not buy enough bread for each of them to have a piece.” The large crowds intimidated his meager resources.
Second: there was the response of Andrew. Andrew always brought whatever/whomever he had to Jesus, for he understood that Jesus was able to make the best of them. He brought his brother Simon to Jesus; he said, “We have found the Messiah” (cf. John 1:41-42), and Jesus made him the Rock (Peter) on which he would build his Church; he made him the head of his apostles. Andrew also brought some Greeks to Jesus (cf. John 12:20-22). And before Jesus performed this miracle of the multiplication of loaves in John’s account, Andrew brought the young boy with five loaves and two fish to Jesus (John 6: 8).
Third: the response of the young boy who brought his five loaves and two fish. Unlike Philip, who focused on the multitude or the magnitude of the problem, the little boy focused on the solution he had. He brought all he had and presented to Jesus.
When Jesus got the ingredients from the little boy, he performed the four Eucharistic Actions; namely, he took the bread, he gave thanks, he broke it, he gave it to his disciples, and after the disciples shared with others, they ate and had twelve baskets extra after they were satisfied. From these Eucharistic Actions of Jesus, we can identify the steps to divine superabundance and fulfillment: know what we have, give thanks for it as God’s gift, and share with others. Sometimes, we think we become wealthy by keeping everything to ourselves, but the truth of the matter is, we may think that we have it all. After we share what we have, we may discover that the one we shared with had something better to share with us, and so the world becomes a richer place for everyone.
Concerning the boy who provided the bread and fish, I wonder what would have happened had it been the boy was not part of the crowd, or what would have happened if he had kept his bread and fish to himself. He provided the raw material for the miracle. He did not underrate himself; he did not even care that he was not counted. The passage says, there were 5000 men, not counting women and children. Though unqualified to be part of the census, he provided the raw material for the miracle. What about us? What are we keeping to ourselves? In what ways are we refusing to provide the raw materials for the miracle on the way?
I recently read from Les Brown that the graveyard is the richest place on earth. There, you will find the best book that was never written, the best sermon that was never preached, the best song that was never sung, the cure of many incurable diseases that was never found, the best inventions that were never shared, etc. because someone was afraid to take the first step; someone was waiting for tomorrow; someone was waiting for the best condition that never came. So, in the graveyard, you find hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled.
In my hospital ministry, I have the privilege of being with people at their last moments. I have come to realize that the most common regrets that people have at the end of this earthly life are not about the mistakes they made in life, but the things they did not do. The dying one begins to regret, “If only I knew, I would have taken the first step; I would have tried my best.” The loved ones begin to lament, “I waited for too long!” “I should have forgiven him/her before now!” “I should have spent more time with him/her before now,” etc.
Many times, people talk of impossibilities, but the truth is that “Everything is impossible until someone does it.” Todd Henry emphasizes that we must make sure we die empty. Each one of us came to this world as a package to be delivered, and none must go back with the package. We must exhaust all we have been given before we leave this world. Whatever we have, we have been given to give. St. Mother Theresa of Calcutta is known to have said, “If you cannot feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
Do not wait until conditions are at their best; whatever good you need to do, do it now, for each of us is an answer to someone else’s prayer; each of us is a raw material for a miracle that is waiting to be actualized. We are blessed to bless!
Here is how I pray every morning: “Lord God, make this day a good and prosperous one for me and all who are dear to me. Make me a channel of your blessing to all those I come in contact with today, and bring me in contact with those through whom you want to bless me today, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”