SFX Bulletin, 3 August 2014: One cannot read today’s Liturgy of the Word without recalling Our Holy Father’s constant reminder that the Church must have “an open heart” especially towards those on the fringes of humanity.
In his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis said, “…the Church…is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems. If the whole Church takes up this missionary impulse, she has to go forth to everyone without exception. But to whom should she go first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much our friends and wealthy neighbours, but above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked, “those who cannot repay you” (Lk 14:14)…We have to state, without mincing words, that there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor”. (EG47, 48).
While many of us have the desire to help, what often holds us back is the fear of our limitations and the enormity of the problem before us. We often end up walking away from someone’s pain rather than giving them solace. This same fear gripped Jesus’ disciples in today’s gospel. As evening came and Jesus was still healing the sick, his disciples became anxious with the neediness of the large crowd and said to him, “…send the people away…”. Jesus, however, replied, “There is no need for them to go: give them something to eat yourselves”. Jesus then worked the miracle of multiplying their five loaves and two fish into such an abundance that there were “twelve baskets full” of leftovers even after the crowd of over five thousand had had their fill. In doing this, Jesus wanted his disciples to know that their fear should not trap them into inaction or rejection. By turning to him, whatever good they try to do will be transformed far beyond their expectations.
“Bring them here to me…” (Mt. 14:18) is Jesus’ invitation to all of us today to trust that he can turn into abundance all our contributions. Beyond material needs however, there is a deeper hunger that is spiritual. Many today suppress their spiritual needs due to the fear that prayer or scripture study might take away time from providing for material needs. Jesus would say in reply, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (Jn.6:27).
If the Eucharist, this “food that endures to eternal life” is already given to us free, what “work” is Jesus referring to here? The crowd, too, asked Jesus this question - to which Jesus answered, “"The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent" (Jn.6:29).
A lack of trust in God’s love and goodness was what led Adam and Eve to prefer to listen to the serpent than to heed God’s warning on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. A lack of belief and awe that they were with the Son of God who loves everyone blinded and crippled the disciples. They failed to see that if Jesus could so lovingly and miraculously heal one sick person after another, surely he would grant their request to find some way of feeding the needy hungry crowd. They had failed to contemplate the deeper meaning behind all of Jesus’ words and actions.
This unwavering trust in God’s love is so emphatically asked of us today as St. Paul had asked it of the Romans, “…I am certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom.8:35).
Holy Communion is God’s love now overflowing in us for our consolation and the consolation of others. Do not be afraid to say to the needy, “Come!..” because through our humble love and consolation, God will draw them close to Himself. He will open their eyes to see that He is “…Lord to all…just in all his ways and loving in all his deeds” (Ps. 144).