Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ
June 23, 2019
Sr Phyllis Jaszkowiak
Listen here (click)
In today’s Gospel there are three movements in this story of the loaves and fishes that feed 5000 and more people.
The first movement is Jesus saying to the Disciples, “Feed them yourselves.” Of course there is a great outcry as they only have 5 loaves and 2 fish. The second movement is Jesus asking what they have, and then taking them and blessing them. Jesus in effect is saying give me what you have and have faith it is enough. The third movement is the blessing of the food and sharing it. They shared it and then had 12 baskets full of leftovers. Jesus used what was available and it was enough and more than enough.
We are all given gifts, each different, each for us to share. We sometimes think, when faced with an impossible task - like fighting injustice, racism, sexism, economic slavery, being obedient to the Will of God for our world - that we can’t do it. We are not smart enough, organized enough, social enough, brave enough, holy enough. Or we think that someone else, with more gifts, could do it much better. But here we are.
If we give our gifts, no matter how small or how large, to Jesus, God says, “Ah, that is just what is needed.” We just have to give what we have and then begin.
As Sr. Joan Chittister says, “Christianity requires that we each be so much a prophetic presence that our corner of the world becomes a better place because we have been there.”
The disciples knew they had very little, and here was this enormous crowd to feed. And Jesus said, “Feed them yourselves.” So all they could do, after Jesus blessed the food, is to start feeding people.
Each time they handed food to the groups of 50, there was always more to hand to the next group. It took some courage to start handing out the food. They probably thought, “We are going to have a riot on our hands when only a few people get to eat.” Yet they trusted Jesus, so they just began to hand out the food. The little they started out with, was enough, and more than enough.
That is the way with Jesus, with God. If we give our gifts, whether large or small, then just start, it is always enough and more than enough. We do, though, have to give our gifts away, start doing whatever it is we are called to do, and be open to the promise that there will always be enough and more than enough.
Sometimes things don’t look like what we imagine they should. It may even look like failure. Jesus faced this as he was arrested, tried, crucified. He gave his all, his life, and died in seeming failure. However what looked like failure turned out to be the enough and more than enough that was promised, as Jesus was raised from the dead.
It takes a ton of faith to just start. History shows us that most things started with just an idea, a small group of folks, a commitment to make things better for people, and then just beginning with the little there was.
Sr. Joan Chittister says, “Community is a necessary dimension of this work. It’s when we pray and meet and discuss and support one another in our simple, powerful actions that we are most able to bear the heat of the prophet’s day.” The church itself started with a group of frightened people hiding in the upper room. Yet with the Spirit, with the courage to begin to witness to what they had experienced, with giving everything to Jesus, the church grew, inch by inch.
We do need to be watchful that we do not think we are doing the work. Pride takes over and then the work falters. So we need always to realize that it is God working in us that makes things happen. When we lose that realization, we lose our way and what we were called to do never happens. In today’s gospel story, the disciples were amazed that the many people were fed. They did realize that they did not do this, Jesus did.
Let us keep in mind, always, that we give our gifts to God to be used for others, especially the poor, the marginalized and against injustice, then we just begin to do the work to which we are called.
“Since it is our turn now to carry the message,” we know there will always be enough and more than enough. That’s the abundance that our God always brings.
Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, THE PROPHET IN YOU, article from US Catholic July 2019, pages 34 and 37.