The gospel today is the story of Jesus feeding a big crowd of people. (For the words of today’s gospel, click here.)
Notice that the gospel begins with the story of John the Baptist and the story of a banquet. King Herod had a banquet for his friends with much food and drinking. His stepdaughter came in and danced. The girl pleased King Herod so much that he promised to give her anything she wanted. She asked her mother what to do. Her mother hated John the Baptist and told the girl to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a dish. The banquet led to death.
Jesus gives food to thousands and gives them life. Jesus comes together with people. They gather together because they are hungry. They are hungry for healing, for learning, for compassion. Jesus sees them and feels compassion for them. He forgives their sins. He gives them strength; he gives them hope; he gives them his teaching.
He knows they are poor. He knows they are not important to many people, but they are important to Jesus, and he wants to do the best for them. So he teaches them. He feeds them with all the knowledge of God that he has; the love of God touches them through Jesus.
But It is getting late. The disciples say, “Send all these people away, to go to the villages and towns nearby and get some food for themselves.” And Jesus says, “No, you give them something to eat.” They explain the problem. They have one boy here with five loaves of bread and two fish. That is all the food they have. And Jesus says, “Bring the food.”
The boy interests me in the story. The boy knows Jesus would like his food; but the boy looks at all the people and thinks, “There are so many people here; my food is so little. It cannot feed all these people.” And then he thinks, “I give this food away, then I am going to be hungry myself tonight, hungry tomorrow, maybe hungry the next day.” Jesus asks and the boy accepts. He does not know what is going to happen. He does what Jesus asks and gives all his food because he trusts Jesus.
Jesus thanks the boy and graciously accepts the food; Jesus blesses God, praises God; Jesus breaks the bread and gives it to whom? To the people? No, it gives it to the disciples. The ones who doubted, who didn’t think Jesus could do anything worthwhile for all of these people; Jesus gives it to them. And they give it to the people in the crowd; and they keep giving, giving, giving, giving. And there is some food leftover!
The same thing is true with us. Sometimes Jesus asks us to do something, to say something. We’re afraid; we do not think our effort will accomplish anything; our effort is not worth anything. But when Jesus asks, he has his plans for us. We can accept, or not. But know if we trust him, he will take what little we can give and make wonderful things happen.
Jesus simply asks that we give him the best we have; to us it may not seem like very much. It’s the best we can do. He asks us to give food, perhaps, but also give kindness, patience, forgiveness, generosity, give hope to other people, give strength to other people. Jesus asks us to give what we can generously, and Jesus will accomplish wonderful things with our gift.
Let me end with a story. This was a story told by a photographer; 30 or 40 years ago he was down in South America. They had an earthquake there, and the destruction was awful. His newspaper sent him to take pictures of the situation. One day he saw many people on line to get food. At the end of the line was a girl, about 12 years old. She was slowly coming forward to get food. Often she looked across the street to see three other younger children. She was coming closer and closer to get the food she needed. But the people giving out the food were worried; the food was going down and down; there was not going to be anything left. Finally, the girl came to them and all they had to give her was one banana. They gave it to the girl and said they were sorry, they had nothing more. The girl thanked them and walked across the street to the three young children sitting there. She broke the banana into three pieces and gave a piece to each of the children, her sister and brothers. And then she took the banana peel and licked it for herself.
This photographer had gone to many different places and had seen much suffering. The love of the girl for her brothers and sister touched him deeply; he said in the girl he saw the face of God.
Jesus asks the same from us. He asks us to give him the little we have. Jesus will accept our gift, and He will do wonderful things with our little gift.
Give to Jesus generously.