Pastor’s Column July 28 – 29, 2018 "Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?"
Growing up, we always had an abundance of food in our house, which probably comes as no surprise to most of you. My Mom, who was not Italian, learned how to cook like an Italian from my Father’s mother. No matter how many friends my brothers and sister and I may have had over the house and might ask at the last minute, “Mom, can my friends stay for dinner,” the answer was always the same: “Sure, as long as it’s OK with their parents.” And there was always more than enough for everyone, with plenty of leftovers to spare. In Italy, they have a word which became a slogan for Mama Celeste frozen pizza, “abbondanza,” which means abundance.
Our readings this weekend are all about God’s abundance. In our Old Testament reading the prophet Elisha orders his servant to give the twenty barley loaves that have been brought to him by the people to eat. When his servant objects saying, “How can I set this before a hundred people?” Elisha prophesies, “Thus says the Lord, they shall eat, and there shall be some left over.” And sure enough, when they had eaten, there was some left over, just as the Lord had said. Next, in our responsorial psalm, we hear: “The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.” But the theme of God’s abundance is even stronger in our Gospel.
Our Gospel reading offers St. John’s account of Jesus’ miracle of the loaves and fish, his only miracle to be recorded in all four gospels. In this story, everything is on a huge scale. It begins with Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee as a large crowd follows him up a mountain, about five thousand men in number, not to mention the women and children. When Jesus asks where his disciples can buy food for them, Philip responds, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” Contrasted with the immensity of everything in that scene is the poverty of the resources at hand. Andrew reports: “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Notice that it is a child, a boy, someone not important enough to be counted among the five thousand who puts at Jesus’ disposal what little he has. But in the hands of Jesus, it is more than enough. St. John says, “Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them…and also as much of the fish as they wanted,” and after they had their fill, the disciples “filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.”
When we give what we have to Jesus, when we put our meager resources at his disposal, when we come to him in our humility and our simplicity and our poverty as we do every time we gather together to celebrate the Eucharist, Jesus gives back to us abundantly. He takes our gifts and talents that we offer to share with one another and he multiplies them and gives back to us many times over. My brother Knights and sister Columbiettes of the Baron DeKalb who join us this weekend at the 12:30 Mass for their Fifth Sunday celebration know this very well. It is an attitude and a way of life demonstrated by so many members of this great organization and which was particularly exemplified by Past Grand Knight Bobby Caragher in whose memory that Mass is being offered. The secret is the more we are able to focus on the needs of others, the more generous we are with the gifts that God has given us, the more our own wants and needs are fulfilled. – Fr. Bob