Our gospel reading on Sunday opened with the news of the cruel death of John the Baptist in the hands of Herod. On hearing this, Jesus wanted to be by himself and grieve for his cousin. He took a boat with his disciples and crossed the lake to a deserted place. No sooner had he stepped out of the boat than he was met by a large crowd of people bringing their sick. The gospel tells us that upon seeing them, “[Jesus’] heart was moved with pity for them, and he healed their sick.”
This precious passage provides us an insight into the compassionate heart of Jesus, a heart that cares. Seeing the sufferings of many people who came for help, Jesus forgot his own and reached out to them. Indeed, we can be trapped and paralyzed by our own pain and even sink into depression unless we learn to look out of ourselves and see the sufferings of others. We have often heard that proverbial complaint of the man who had no shoes until he saw someone who had no feet. Even in our own lack, we are still blessed. And because we are blessed, God asks us to be a blessing to others.
When the disciples asked the Lord to dismiss the people so they could go to the villages and buy food for themselves, Jesus replied, “Give them some food yourselves.” They protested saying they did not have enough for so many. How much did they have? “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here,” they answered.
That is all that God asks – all that we have, even how little. The rest he will supply, and if needed, he will make a miracle. With five loaves, two fish and Jesus’ blessing, the disciples were able to feed 5,000 men, not counting women and children (and not mentioning 12 basketful of leftovers). God only asks what we can give. The rest he will provide, like when Jesus asked the waiters at Cana to give what they had. They gave him water and he turned it into wine.
God can multiply the least when totally given. Mary sings of this graciousness of God in her Magnificat. “He has looked on the lowliness of his servant, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.” (Lk 1:48) In the same way, God transformed the humble St. John Marie Vianney, who barely passed in the seminary, into an exceptional priest who brought countless souls back to God through his ministry of the word and the confessional. Like the loaves and fish in the gospel, God turned this lowly priest into one of the greatest pastors of all time. No less than the devil himself admitted, “If there were three priests such as you, my kingdom would be ruined.”
God cares for his people. Jesus did not only heal their sick but their souls as well by the word he preached. He did not only feed them for a day, but promised to give them the Bread of Eternal Life. The multiplication of the bread is a foreshadowing of the Eucharist. Jesus’ action of taking, blessing, breaking and giving the loaves to his disciples in the desert heralds the Lord’s Supper in the upper room. The first reading pre-announces this open invitation to the Lord’s full banquet of life. “Come to the water… come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost… come to me and listen, that you may have life.”
God cares. As he cares for us, he also asks us to care for each other. In this way, he continues to care for his people through us. “Give them some food yourselves… five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”
Let’s not our poverty excuse us from being generous. Among the most generous people I know are poor people. Let our poverty instead be a reason for God to work wonders in us and to multiply his blessings for many.
Yesterday was St. John Marie Vianney Sunday. He is the Patron Saint of priests. Let remember all our priests and pray that, like St. John Marie Vianney, we may be holy and zealous ministers of God.
Given the present alarming spike of covid-19 cases in Negros, I earnestly call on our faithful to take seriously the gravity of our situation and to cooperate with the government authorities regarding strict compliance with protocol.
I am certain that God will get us through this pandemic because HE CARES. But he asks that we too care by doing the simple things needed to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the deadly virus.*