What Can Five Loaves & Two Fish Accomplish?

2014 world cup germany win

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I saw the final World Cup game on TV while having breakfast at a hotel in Christchurch NZ. And when Mario Götze of Germany scored the winning goal against Argentina in extra time, I told Fr. Kerry who was sitting across the table from me that Germany just won the World Cup. I told him that at that moment in Rome, Pope Benedict was doing a happy dance while Pope Francis was sitting stunned in front of the TV. We laughed. And then we returned to our breakfast.

Then a few days later at breakfast in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, I heard that Malaysian Flight 17 was shot down near the Ukrainian border. I saw the sad news on CNN later, as well as the escalating conflict in Gaza. I guess there really is no place away from bad things. Bad things happen all around us all the time. But how do events like this affect the way we live? Are we paralyzed in fear of the next conflict or disaster? Do we pause to say a prayer, or find out how we can help, or do we just resolve to keep doing what we do so the terrorists don’t win?

mh17 crash

It seems lately bad things happen in the world or I hear about them when I am eating. But the universe is not picking on me, telling me to stop eating so bad things don’t happen. Someone somewhere in the world will be eating something when the next bad thing happens. Besides, we have to eat to live. It’s when we stop eating that the terrorists win. But don’t quote me on that. And when I said we shouldn’t stop eating, that didn’t mean we don’t do anything else all day. If you heard that, I’m sorry, you have bigger problems.

It seemed like a more innocent time when Jesus walked the shores of the Sea of Galilee. But we forget that Israel was then subject to Rome. John the Baptist had just been executed by Herod. So bad things happened even then. And Jesus didn’t run away. He didn’t keep a lower profile. He was not fearful for his own safety. Rather he put faith in his own life’s purpose and mission. Nothing would deter him. But even he had to stop talking so the people could eat.

“Give them some food yourselves,” he told them. We know nothing of Jesus’ message that day. Perhaps he inspired some listeners to be better disciples. But I’m sure a few among them were more concerned about the growling in their stomachs. Jesus was aware of their need. And when he told his apostles to give the crowd something to eat, they replied, “We only have five loaves and two fish.” In effect, they were saying, “It can’t be done.”

Wine jug with bread and fish

How often do we find ourselves making excuses to avoid the implications of Christian discipleship and our responsibility for the good of human society? “I can’t do anything about the conflict in Gaza, in Iraq, in Ukraine. It’s too far away and there’s only one of me. I can’t bring an end to war, or world hunger, or human trafficking, or political gridlock in Washington DC. I’m not political. I’m not a celebrity. I have no voice in the public forum, no clout, no credibility. All I have are five loaves and two fish.”

We fail to realize that it was Jesus who fed the multitude. But God will still need our five loaves and two fish. Whatever we have will be sufficient for God’s purposes. God will feed the hungry, and there will be leftovers. Why are we afraid to face the challenge of Christian discipleship? What assurances do we require from God before we get involved?

nothing to offer 01

The World Cup is over for now. And Malaysian Flight 17 is gone. And violence still rages in Gaza, Ukraine, and Syria. Young illegal immigrants are still risking their lives to cross the border despite the threat of arrest and deportation. And Congress is in recess for five weeks, having accomplished nothing to help. The message we read in Paul’s letter to the Romans assures us when we feel helpless. The love of God in Christ Jesus will not abandon us—not in the face of “anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword.” Our sisters and brothers still hunger and thirst. Our resources are limited, just five loaves and two fish, perhaps less. But with whatever we bring to Jesus, he will provide for those in need.

We might trust him more like the apostles. God will not abandon us. Why do we doubt God’s generosity? If Jesus could feed five thousand mouths with five loaves and two fish, can you imagine what great things God can accomplish with so little we can offer?

helping the poor

Rolo B Castillo © 2014