Monday, April 18, 2011

Scripture Matthew 14:12-13

And his disciples came and took the body (of John the Baptist) and buried it; and they went and told Jesus. Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.

Comment – Feeding the Five Thousand

This scene is recounted in all four gospels, which is very rare.

Jesus feeding the five thousand.

This event must have struck them with great power because it is so central in the Gospels and it is so central really in our tradition for artists, for poets and for preachers.

I want you to know something first.
How darkly this account begins.

The story opens with the news of the death of John the Baptist. In some ways Jesus is continuing the ministry of John – baptising and preaching repentance. So He has heard that this colleague of His has just been killed. Jesus withdraws.

Well there is something frightening here at the beginning. Something menacing and threatening.
I think those who have a Biblical mind would see in this all kinds of Old Testament overtones.

Christians, how often the prophets and patriarchs of the Old Testament were threatened – whether it was Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Elijah, Moses.

Again and again those who speak the Word of God find themselves under threat from a sinful world.

So here is Jesus withdrawing after the death of John the Baptist.

Then, the people attracted by His power and charisma – the people come out by the thousands to look for Him and they find themselves with Him in a deserted place. Now, again for Biblically minded people, this large crowd of thousands of people in a deserted place calls to mind Israel having left Egypt in search of the promised land now finding themselves a bit adrift and lost in a desert place.

The threatened prophet.
The wandering people.
There are very very powerful Old Testament motifs as this story begins.

Scripture Matt.14:14-16

[14] As he went ashore he saw a great throng; and he had compassion on them, and healed their sick.
[15] When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves."
[16] Jesus said, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat."


How does it unfold?
Well, the disciples realise the problem.
Jesus has been healing and teaching this crowd in a deserted place and there are thousands of them.

Evening comes on and they say “Lord, dismiss the crowds, so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves”

Notice something here.
The movement of sin is always in the direction of dispersion.
The Greek word ‘diabollane’ from which our word ‘devil’ comes from (think of diablo in Spanish) – diabollane means to scatter.

Scattering is always the work of the dark power. Scattering is always the work of sin.

The disciples here in some ways maybe unwittingly, against their own best intentions, but nevertheless are speaking the language and words of sin.

“Lord, send them away, dismiss them so they can get some food for themselves”.

Everyman for himself. There is the voice of sin
What is the voice of grace?
Bearing each others burdens in love.
That is the voice of grace.

That is the voice of God’s kingdom.
That is the voice of God’s communion.

But this tendency to say ‘split them up, let everyman fend for himself’ is the permanent danger in the Church.

But Jesus as always is the voice of communion, compassion, together.

Listen to what He says.
There is no need for them to go away. Give them some food for yourselves.

First of all – no breaking up of the group.
Even when they are in danger. These people are threatened. They are in an isolated place and hungry.
There is no food available. They are in danger.

Our first instinct is to dispel the crowd, to disperse the crowd. Jesus says no, especially now we hang together, especially now we stay as one.

But then, that wonderful and deeply challenging instruction.
Give them some food yourselves.

Remember they had said ‘let them go and buy food for themselves in the villages. Let them go do it.
The Lord says ‘No’. In the communion of the kingdom of God we bear each others burdens in love.

We don’t say that’s your problem – it is our problem.
We don’t say that is your joy and I am jealous of it. No, we say that is our joy.
We are in this together.

You know what I hear often is
‘you know what the Church ought to do is’
‘somebody ought to take care of this’
‘here’s what they should do’

Well, in all these cases it is someone in the church abdicating responsibility.
We are the Church, we are the people of God.
Well good, but there is a responsibility attached to that.
That means you just can’t say ‘there is a problem, now you take care of it.

The Lord says ‘you give them something to eat’
You do something to solve this problem.

Scripture Matt.14:16-21

[16] Jesus said, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat."
[17] They said to him, "We have only five loaves here and two fish."
[18] And he said, "Bring them here to me."
[19] Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass; and taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.
[20] And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.
[21] And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.


God loves dispensing His providence through secondary causes.
God gives us the privilege of participating in His own providence.
You do something about it.
You take the steps needed.

There was an old principle – See, Judge, Act

That is all contained, I think, in this beautiful command of Jesus – ‘You give them something to eat.’

Now what do the disciples do?

They say, ‘Lord, all we have got are five loaves and two fish. There are five thousand people here not counting women and children’

So we are supposed to do something?
We have got five loaves and two fish!
Now explain that one to us.

What does Jesus say?

Give them to me and then He multiplies them in such a way that every person is fed and filled and in fact there are twelve baskets left over.

Spiritual lesson

You give what you have, even if it is very little, to Christ and it will be multiplied.

You give Christ your mind, your will, your energy, your compassion.
Even if they are very small.
Even if it is only you and a couple of friends.
You give it to Christ and you will find that the whole thing becomes multiplied for His purposes.

Jesus wants us to cooperate with Him and we do it by giving the little that we’ve got and we will be shocked and surprised to find the effect that it has on the world.

What is the worst thing we can do?
It is to hang on to even the little we have and then say to the rest ‘you go fend for yourselves.

No! Even give away that little pittance and you will be surprised what Christ can do with it.

Do you ever think Christians, that every major movement began small.

For example think of Mother Teresa.

This nun in her thirties who left the relative comfort of her high school where she was teaching and she walked into the worst slum in the world and simply began caring for those who were dying.

What if some said to her ‘we have to do something about this crisis in Calcutta’ she would have said who am I to address it?

Well she didn’t say that.

She just went and began caring for the dying.

Soon she was joined by her former students and then her friends and then by admirers and now the Missionaries of Charity – the order she founded covers the whole world and their works have been of enormous power in transforming the world and in serving Christ and His Church.

The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.

It begins very small but in time it grows into this great tree and the birds of the air make their nest in it.

The kingdom of God is like a boy giving five loaves and two fish to Christ Jesus and watching it grow.

Source : Fr Robert Barron –audio sermons

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