SFX Bulletin, 2 June 2013: Like Jesus’ disciples in today’s gospel, we can be disinclined to “give” (v.13) for a variety of reasons. Time and again, when prompted by the Spirit to step out of our “comfort zone”, we highlight our limitations and use them as excuses for our inertia.
The feeding of the crowd of over 5,000 takes place after Jesus’ disciples had returned from a successful mission trip, “preaching the gospel and healing everywhere” (v.6). On that mission they had depended entirely on Jesus, following his instructions to “ take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag nor bread, nor money…” (v.3). Setting out with nothing but trust in Jesus, the apostles were so successful in their mission that the crowds continued to follow them to Bethsaida.
Jesus ‘welcomed” the crowds, talked to them about the Kingdom of God and cured those who needed healing. Spent and tired from continuously attending to the crowd, the disciples told Jesus, “Send the people away, and they can go to the villages and farms round about to find lodging and food; for we are in a lonely place here.” (v.12). Jesus, however, expected more from them especially after the miraculous things they were able to do when they trusted in him. So he said, “Give them something to eat yourselves” (v.13). The disciples again gave an answer highlighting their limitations, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish…” and to emphasise the “impossibility” of Jesus’ request, they added with a tinge of self-pity, “…unless we are to go ourselves and buy food for all these people” (v.13).
This is an exchange that we may have had with Jesus. We are not afraid to say we are Catholics when Mother Church is being admired – like at the recent election of Pope Francis. We enjoy the attention given us as “insiders” who are presumed to understand the fascinating rituals of the Mass. Yet, we also distance ourselves from the Church when we are called to put ourselves at her service – like responding to the call to serve in a ministry wherein hard work is needed like being a Catechist or an RCIA sponsor.
In the miracle of the multiplication of the five loaves and two fish, Jesus wants us to trust in God’s power to transform what we “give” to others through Jesus – no matter how insignificant the offering. When the disciples handed the loaves and fish to Jesus, he “raised his eyes to heaven”, prayerfully offering back to God the Father the gifts of food from creation. The Father transformed the simple offering into superabundance with everyone having “as much as they wanted” and leftovers filling “twelve baskets”.
In today’s first reading, we see that Abraham was not afraid to “give” - even his life. Abraham risked his life to rescue his nephew Lot and God blessed him by “handing over” the rebel kings to Abraham (v.20). God’s priest, Melchizedek, representing the figure of Jesus, blesses Abraham because he was willing to lay down his life for Lot. Abraham does not simply receive God’s blessing but “gave” (v.20) back to God through Melchizedek “a tithe of everything”.
Abraham’s admirable gesture of returning back to God some of what he received from God contrasts with the apostles’ disinclination to continue to give the “power and authority” (v.1) that Jesus had given them. However, as they matured in their faith, they offered themselves to the Holy Spirit and were able to give up their lives for the gospel – passing on to us the apostolic church through which everyone can receive Jesus’ “power and authority” in the Eucharist – the Body of Christ.
St. Paul reminds us that in receiving the Eucharist, we are “proclaiming (Jesus’) death” (v.26). This means that we acknowledge Jesus’ offering of his life for us. By our “Amen”, we affirm that we are receiving the Body of Christ. This means we are willing to offer up ourselves to be transformed into Jesus’ likeness. Like Jesus, we are prepared to love others selflessly. May our reception of Corpus Christi today strengthen us anew to give back to God through Jesus the gift of everything He has given us in life.