17th Sunday O T Year B
2Kings 4:42-44/ Eph.4:1-6/ Jn.6:1-15
A young man saw an elderly couple sitting down to lunch at McDonald’s. He noticed that they had ordered one meal, and an extra drink cup.
As he watched, the gentleman carefully divided the hamburger in half, counted out the fries, one for him, one for her, until each had half of them. Then he poured half of the soft drink into the extra cup and set that in front of his wife.
The old man then began to eat, and his wife sat watching, with her hands folded in her lap. The young man decided to ask if they would allow him to purchase another meal for them so that they didn’t have to split theirs.
The old gentleman said, “Oh No. We’ve been married 50 years, and everything has always been and will always be shared, 50/50.”
The last part of it is the interesting one. Then the young man asked the wife if she was not going to eat, and she replied, “It’s his turn with the teeth.”
For whatever occasion it might be, there must be this one essential and important element, and that is none other than food. Yes, for whatever occasion it might be, the presence of food will make things look good.
For example, at weddings, besides the bride and the groom looking very good, there will also be the wedding reception where there will be at least some catered food, or better still a 10-course sumptuous dinner.
For birthday celebrations, there will at least be a sweet rich birthday cake. Even for funeral wakes, there will be at least some simple food. But the presence of food is not just to make the occasion look good.
Food is for our good. Because food is the first necessity of life. We eat to live (and not the other way round). In fact, the first human activity in the Bible is eating!
In the book of Genesis, after God created man, He told him that he may eat of all the fruit trees in the garden, except the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
So even God is concerned about our need for food, and what we are eating. So the basic question in life, and for life, is this – What do we really need? And do we have it?
That was the question that Jesus asked when He saw the crowds – “Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?” The need was for food – bread for the people to eat.
And from the small boy’s five barley loaves and two fish, a miracle happened and the crowd of five thousand ate as much as they wanted.
Yes, it was a miracle, a sign and a wonder, all pointing to divine providence. Yes, God cares for His people. He is concerned about their need for food and He provides.
Yes, food is good, because it points to the Lord who is good. And hence eating must also be an act of thanksgiving. That’s why we say Grace before meals, to give thanks to God for the food.
Yes, give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for He provides us with food. Yet, we see something strange happening in the gospel.
The people seeing this sign, this wonderful miracle that Jesus had given, were having ideas of taking Him by force and making Him king. And so Jesus had to make a quick exit to the hills by Himself.
It was strange, because instead of giving thanks to God, the people’s need turned into greed. Jesus had healed the sick; now He had provided bread for the hungry.
For the crowds, they could only see in Jesus the one who could give them food and health, and hence their problems in life are going to be solved.
So they wanted to make Him their king, so that He will have to provide for them always. For the crowd, they thought that they had found the man who would take care of all their physical wants and needs.
They thought that they had found the one who would make everything right again – there will be no more hunger, no more sickness, no more problems, no more worries.
Yes, it began with a need, but it turned into greed. The crowd was not able to see that the miracle of the multiplication of loaves was a sign of the goodness of the Lord’s providence.
When a need turns into greed, thanksgiving will be forgotten, and there will only be selfish desires and agendas.
As we come to Mass, we have come to the Eucharist which means “thanksgiving”. So we have come here to thank God. But are we aware of what to thank God for?
Oh yes, the first thing that comes to mind is that we thank God for giving Jesus to us in Holy Communion.
But the consecrated host is a small piece of wafer that hardly satisfies us if we are really physically hungry. Yet, as we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, we also open our eyes in thanksgiving.
And certainly, one of the things we must thank God for is the food that is so easily available in our country, and that we can eat as much as we want.
Do we see any miracle there? Yes it is a miracle in that for a country like United States which hardly produces what it consumes, we have so much of fresh food.
And the food that we consume has certainly gone through the labors of many hands and many people before it appears as delicious warm food for our enjoyment.
So right before our eyes, a miracle has happened! And when we see it as a miracle, we would certainly give thanks to God for that.
Yet at the same time, we can also simply take it for granted, that there will always be food on demand, and that we can even waste food. If that is the case, then our need has become a greed.
We will cease to see miracles and cease to give thanks. And then like the crowd, we would begin to put our selfish desires and agendas on demand, and expect Jesus to fulfill it.
The other day I read an article about a man who worked at a highway tollgate. He was a very cheerful person, and he loved to spread his cheer to others.
And so, whenever someone passed through the gate, he always smiled and greeted them. He also had a very good memory.
One day, remembering that a certain driver who always wore glasses had none, he asked him: “Where is your glasses”? To another, a truck driver with a load of big logs, he said, “Wow that looks really heavy!”
After a few weeks, an interesting thing happened. The cars at this man’s tollgate formed a longer line than at all the other tollgates. People liked this man very much, and they wanted to see his smile and be greeted by him.
When we think about it, the man working at the tollgate did not do anything spectacular. He simply smiled at all those who passed through the gate and greeted them in a friendly way.
But that simple gesture and those few words of encouragement were very important. It made a deep impression on people and gave them a boost.
We see something very similar in today’s gospel story. First, it is significant, I think, that all of four gospel writers tell us about this event.
It is also important that, although the account of each one differs a little, they all mention two basic facts: there were five loaves of bread and two fish. And with that small amount of food, Jesus was able to feed at least five thousand people.
This means that Jesus performed a very great miracle with very little resources. Although there were only a few loaves of bread and two fish, He fed a very large crowd of people until they were satisfied.
Each one of us is very powerful. We can change the lives of a whole community simply by a cheerful attitude.
If we add faith to our cheerfulness, there is no limit to what we can do. At first, the disciples lacked faith. They felt that there was not enough food for so many people. But then Jesus taught them that if they had faith, they could do anything.
This, I believe, is what Jesus wants to tell us in today’s gospel. When we have faith, we become extremely powerful. Why? Because when we act with faith, we are allowing God Himself to work in and through us.
Jesus wants to do great things though us. Let us open ourselves to His grace so that he can accomplish whatever he wishes through us.
Let us also remember to always say the “Grace before meals”. And with thankful and grateful hearts, we will be able to see the wonders and miracles that the Lord works for us always.
Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.