A nervous young minister, new to the church, told the flock, “For my text today, I will take the words, `And they fed five men with five thousand loaves of bread and two thousand fishes.” A member of the flock raised his hand and said, “That`s not much of a trick. I could do that.” The minister didn`t respond. However, the next Sunday he decided to repeat the text. This time he did it properly, “And they fed five thousand men with five loaves of bread and two fishes.” Smiling, the minister said to the noisy man, “Could you do that, Mr. Perkins?” The member of the flock said, “I sure could.” “How would you do it?” asked the minister. “With all the food I had leftover from last Sunday!”
In the gospel today Jesus looks up and sees a vast and hungry crowd, and he gives his disciples a command: “Make them sit down.” Now at first this command of Jesus can seem marginal, a throwaway line. But things change when we ask, “Why would Jesus say it?” I suggest that Jesus wanted the crowd to sit down so that they would not miss what he was about to do.
Think of it. In a huge crowd, there are all kinds of things happening. People are talking and arguing and complaining and thinking and wondering. And as they mill around in their own particular preoccupations, it would be easy for them to miss the miracle that Jesus was about to perform. So Jesus’ command to sit down was a command to pay attention, to recognize the action of God before their eyes.
This command of Jesus can be very useful to us in dealing with miracles, because we often overlook the miracles in our lives. Now of course, if the sun was to stop still or rain began to fall up, we would all notice that. But most miracles are not so dramatic. Some miracles are constantly present. They are the ones that are easy to overlook.
We can overlook the way in which our lungs draw oxygen from the invisible air, which allows us to remain conscious and alive. We can forget the way our kidney filters our blood, preserving the elements that are good and eliminating the ones that are poisonous. We forget the miracle of how a baby learns to talk, of how suddenly we can come to an idea, how music can make us cry. We forget the wonder of how a blade of grass grows, or how a few cells within the womb divide and multiply until they form a human person with fingers and a personality and eyes that can see color.
Jesus calls us to sit down, to pay attention, to recognize the wonders that surround us. If we do that, think of how it could change us. Would it not make us more humble, more hopeful, more patient, more alive? We live in a world of miracles. Let’s make sure that we take the time to see them, because every time we take one in, we recognize the presence of God.
Another point I want to share with you is this: Sharing our gifts.
We can build our Christian Community if we all can give what we have just like the little boy. Andrew finds a small boy, not even his name is mentioned. Better said, the boy finds Andrew. He shouts to him, “Hey mister, come here.” The boy takes from his bag five slices of bread and two fish and gives to Andrew. This was to be the boy’s own lunch. The kid was giving not out of his surplus but all he had. Jesus accepts the boy’s gifts with proper ceremony and gratitude. When all seated, Jesus asked his people to share the boy’s gifts. About 5000 men would mean nearly 15000 people with women and children. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Jesus held up the boy in his arms for all in the crowd to see and asked them to be as generous as this child.
Jesus wants to work the miracle of feeding a huge number of people who are hungry; but the miracle will not happen without someone to provide five barley loaves and two fish. Today the boy is each of us who has something to offer to Jesus. Let us learn to give what we have. Jesus will multiply and give to us. True charity as an adequate response to God’s love must take concrete shape in helping and serving God who suffers even today in human flesh. Let us not postpone our loving kindness to others until the evening of our lives or until we can render them in a big way.
There was a rich man who complained to his friend thus: “The people do not like me. They say I am stingy and greedy; but I have made my will and have willed my entire property to a charitable institution.” The friend replied thus: “A pig came to a cow and complained: ‘People speak so well of you. It is true you give milk. But they profit from me much more. They have meat and sausages of different types. Even my feet and hands they eat. Still nobody loves me as they love you. Why?’ They cow reflected and said: ‘perhaps it is because of this: I give while I am alive.’ Is it not a folly to postpone the good which we can do here and now?”