17th Sunday OTB

2 King 4:42-44;                   Eph 4:1-6;    Jn 6:1-15 – Food for the Poor

Two children in a home got into a heated argument about who was going to get the last brownie. Sensing the opportunity to teach a deeper spiritual truth, the mother looked at her children and asked that very relevant question…”What would Jesus do?” Well, that little boy immediately answered, “That’s easy. Jesus would just break that brownie and make 5,000 more!”

Dear friends! For this and the next four Sundays the Gospel readings come from chapter 6 of St. John’s Gospel. In today’s readings we see God’s concern for the hungry. In the First Reading we see how Elisha cut through the red tape and insisted that the bread be given to the people, even though the bread was that of the first fruits which was marked out for offering to God. And in the gospel we see Jesus providing bread for the people who had followed him into the wilderness.

Food is the first necessity of life. Without food no life is possible, much less a higher form of life. Feeding the hungry is the first of the great corporal works of mercy. At the last judgment Jesus will say, ‘I was hungry and you gave me food,’ or I was hungry and you did not give me food.’ When Jesus met hungry people he gave them the only thing that mattered to them at the moment. He gave them food, and did so with great generosity – all ate as much as they wanted, and there still were twelve baskets left over.

The gospel story teaches that Jesus meets the most basic human need, hunger, with generosity and compassion. Today’s readings tell us that God really cares about His people and that there is enough and more than enough for everybody. 

From her personal experience, Mother Teresa relates a story showing how the poor are more generous than the rich because they have experienced hunger and poverty. Learning of a poor Hindu family in Calcutta who had been starving for many days, Mother Theresa visited them and brought a big parcel of rice to the mother. She was surprised to see how the mother divided the rice into two equal portions and went out with one bundle to give it to her Moslem neighbor. When she returned, Mother Theresa asked her why she had done such a generous deed. The woman replied: “My family can manage with half the rice in this bag. My neighbor’s family has several children and they are also starving.”

Today’s gospel tells the story of a small boy who showed this same kind of generosity. By sharing his small lunch (which consisted of five barley loaves and two dried fish), he became the instrument in Jesus’ working of a miracle that fed thousands.

Today there is a preoccupation with food, but it varies greatly from one part of the world to another. In the developed world, we have too much food. The main preoccupation of many people has become how to cut down on food with a view to reducing weight.  But in the Third World, the problem is how to get anything to eat at all. Even here, in our own food pantry, we server at times 70 to 80 families for a month.

What can we do to help those people looking for food? We can’t multiply the food as Jesus could. But we do not have to. All we have to do is share it, or the money to buy it. Jesus continues to ask us the question he asked Philip: ‘Where can we buy bread for these people to eat?’

It is too easy to blame God, too easy to blame governments, too easy see these things as other people’s problems. They are also our problems. That is the meaning of the Eucharist we celebrate here today. In other words, as Christians we need to commit ourselves to share what we have with others, and to work with God in communicating his compassion to all. God is a caring Father and He wants our co-operation to be part of His caring for all of us, His children.

We are shown two attitudes in the Gospel story: that of Philip and that of Andrew (John 6:7-9). Philip said, in effect: “The situation is hopeless; nothing can be done.” But Andrew’s attitude was: “I’ll see what I can do; and I will trust Jesus to do the rest.” Let us have Andrew’s attitude.