Homily for August 1st, 2016: Matt. 14:13-21.
As the sun starts to sink and the shadows lengthen, Jesus’ disciples approach him with an urgent request. “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy some food for themselves.”
Jesus’ response surprises us: “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” He was having fun with them – teasing them. Jesus knew perfectly well what he was going to do.
Not realizing this, the disciples point out that what Jesus has asked them to do is impossible: “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” To which Jesus responds simply: “Bring them to me.”
When the disciples have done this, Jesus looks up to heaven, blesses these hopelessly inadequate supplies, and gives them to the disciples to distribute to the crowd. “They all ate and were satisfied,” Matthew tells us, adding: “and they picked up the fragments left over – twelve wicker baskets full.” But of course: there were twelve men doing the distribution.
What does this tell us? Two things. First, when we entrust our pitifully inadequate resources to the Lord, they are inadequate no longer. Second, when the Lord gives, he gives not only abundantly, but super-abundantly. We come repeatedly not because the Lord limits his gifts, but because our ability to receive them is limited.
The early Christian community loved this story so much that we find it told six times over, with variations, in the four gospels. The reason is clear. It reminded Jesus’ friends of what he does in the Eucharist. We offer him a little bread and wine – and these modest gifts come back to us transformed into his Body and Blood: all his goodness, all his love, all his compassion, patience, and purity. And when have him, we have everything!