Did you know that today’s story of the miraculous feeding is recorded in all four New Testament gospels? It is the only one of Jesus’ miracles that all four evangelists relate. It must have held great import for each of them: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell the story of the day when Jesus fed five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish. Each embellishes his version with their own details and emphases. Mark and Matthew tell us Jesus commands the people out there in the wilderness to sit down on the green grass. Why this reference to the color of the grass? To know the answer one will have to wait until the day we see those fellows in heaven. It reminds me of Psalm 23: “He beckons me to lie down in green pastures.”
John’s version of the event is probably the one we learned as children. We could relate to the generous young boy who shared his five barley loaves and two fish. We’re not told how it happened that the boy had the fish and the loaves. I like to project my thinking that he, like most people at that time, would not dream of going out into the wilderness without at least a little something to eat and drink.
So the story, it seems to me, continues in a “pay it forward” style. You know, similar to the Dairy Queen drive-thru customer who paid for the car coming up behind him. That started a chain reaction that lasted for three days, 200 thankful Dairy Queen customers! Like the generosity of the young boy on the green grass at Jesus’ feet. He started a chain pay-it-forward reaction that enabled Jesus to feed the hungry crowd. Some evangelists say it was 5,000 people; others 5,000 not counting the women and children. I find it interesting that in John’s version Jesus tells the apostles to have the people recline and John says the men reclined. What were the women doing? I would venture a guess they were doing “women’s work” – rounding up the kids, wondering if there’d be enough bread and what they were going to give the men to drink???
What trust! What faith in Jesus the apostles showed in telling the people to relax! Be patient. Sit down! Surely they could not fathom how all these people could be fed. Even pooling all their supplies, they certainly did not have the resources to feed this crowd. What were they to do now that they had people seated and waiting to see what would happen next? That’s what you call FAITH! That’s obedience – trusting the wisdom of God to do the impossible! We just need to take the first step: Listen and obey the prompting of the Spirit: tell the people to be seated.
No doubt Jesus could have multiplied the available supplies if he wanted to. But, as John asks, to what end? John asks and answers that exact question. The very next day the people would again be hungry. They’d be looking for something to fill their bellies. They’d not be clamoring “Speech! Speech! Share a good word! Let’s hear it!” Likely they’d be waiting for the apostles to open Jesus’ food distribution center.
On this day, out in the wilderness, John tells us that the people ate and were satisfied. Which would be more satisfying to you, a full belly for a single afternoon, or a glimpse, a vision of what life looks like when lived in the company of generous people under the reign of God?
What would our world be like if people acknowledged that they are called to be transformed? What if we were truly as open-handed with our possessions as the young boy on the hillside was with his? What would be the status of the pandemic if everyone followed CDC advice: get vaccinated, wear a mask, wash your hands? And, what if we really believed that Jesus still has the power to take the gifts we offer and to create from our generosity, widespread outbreaks of sharing? As I watched the Olympics opening ceremony I was thinking “This is lovely – a testament to the ingenuity of computer whizzes, but with the millions spent in the production and given by sponsors – so much good could have been done. But quickly it seemed God said, yes, that may be true. But wouldn’t you rather see all those dollars and tech savvy spent to amaze and inspire people than on cyber-crimes and weapons of violence? With positive, other-directed thinking and actions, I daresay that the world could be transformed, and over 3.1 million children a year (one child every 10 seconds) would not die of hunger. More people would reflect the attitude and model the efforts of the Benedictine Sisters of Florida, our Oblates and our supporters in their ministry to respond “with the compassion of Christ to the hungers of the people of God” (BSofFL Corporate Commitment).
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress
Join us this week in prayer as we remember our Grandparents and the elderly: their needs and in gratitude for their contributions to our lives.
This week the Sisters are also remembering in a special way our guests: those who have visited us over the years AND those who have met and become our friends via social media – God bless them / you all!