Today’s readings present us with a probing conscience question: Do we really trust that God will care for us? Or do we have to provide for ourselves? The Theme for this week urges us to trust the Lord to meet our needs: “Only Jesus Christ has the power to fulfill the longings of our hearts…. Let us entrust ourselves to him, fully confident that he can fulfill all our needs.” And the Psalm response assures us that the Lord will provide: “The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.” But do we believe this? Do we act as if we believe it? This is the question we are led to ponder today.
Today’s model of trust in the Lord is the boy in the Gospel. He has five barley loaves and two fish. No doubt he (or his mother) had thought ahead and realized he would need to bring some food with him since he was going to be away from home as he went to find Jesus. So he has enough food for himself. He looks around and see thousands of hungry people. As he considers his few loaves and fish, and the vast crowd, he may be thinking something similar to what Andrew says: “What good are these for so many?” Clearly his food is no good at all to meet such a huge need.
What should the boy do in this situation? According to a strictly worldly way of thinking, the boy should hide his food and keep it for himself. It is not his fault that others have not provided for themselves, and it will not help them if he gives away his food and goes hungry. He might as well take care of his own needs. This way of thinking and acting makes sense to us, but it is not the way that God acts. It is not the way that Christ teaches his followers to act.
The boy has been listening all afternoon as Jesus taught the people. He heard the Lord talk about how his Father cares for his people, and about the greatest commandments, love of God and love of neighbor. He is moved to bring his food to the Apostles and offer it to Jesus, trusting that God will somehow take care of him, even as he gives away all that he has. We know the result: Jesus multiplies the boy’s gift such that it feeds all the people, and there are twelve baskets of food left over.
Surely Jesus could have miraculously produced bread and fish by himself without needing the boy’s gift. But this is not the way God usually chooses to act. He prefers to include us as participants in his saving work. He wants to teach us to think and act as he does, and this means giving ourselves away completely in love for others, as he does. We do not learn to love as God loves merely by reading about it, or by watching. We learn to love by acting with love toward those around us.
We see the same process at work in the first reading. A man makes a gift of some barley loaves to the prophet Elisha. It is not nearly enough to feed the people, but Elisha assures his servant that God will work in such a way that this gift will be enough, and there will be some left over. The small gift will be multiplied by God to become an abundance.
In the second reading, St. Paul gives us a practical instruction on what it means to live with trust in God and to consider the needs of others before our own. He urges us: “live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love.” When we are practicing humility, gentleness and patience, we are choosing what is good for others rather than simply providing for ourselves.
This is not only what Jesus taught with his words. It is above all what he showed us as he gave up his own life out of love for us, to save us all from sin and death. Looked at purely from a worldly point of view, it does no good for one man to sacrifice himself in the face of a world full of sin and suffering. But Jesus is not merely a man – he is God and man. And when God is working, what seems like an insignificant gift can be multiplied into a fantastic abundance.
The Lord invites us today to imitate the boy in the Gospel – not to hoard our few possessions in an attempt to provide for our own needs, but to entrust all that we have, joyfully and generously, to the Lord, trusting that he will use it to produce an abundance for others, and for ourselves as well.
Do I entrust myself fully to Jesus, confident that he alone can fulfill the longings of my heart? Do I act and think as Jesus by giving myself away completely in love for others? Like Paul, am I striving to be humble, gentle, and bearing with one another through love?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 17, no. 6. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.