At every Mass we respond to the first reading by praying the antiphon of the psalm together several times. While this repeated text is rarely the focus of the preacher it often provides a key to the central message of the other readings of the liturgy.
This weekend in every parish of the world worshippers will pray several times “The hand of the Lord feeds us, He answers all our needs.” Psalm 145
Hopefully the repetition helps this wonderful fact of faith to sink deeply into us: the Lord provides for every one of our needs.
Even as I type this I am aware of my many needs. I need the psalm response to become my own personal mantra: “The hand of the Lord feeds ME, He answers all MY needs.”
The Sunday’s gospel helps us to appreciate the practical, down-to-earth nature of Jesus provision. It’s perhaps easy to accept that Jesus will meet our “spiritual” needs – and then we fall into the trap of thinking that a spiritual need is not a real need, that it’s less real than a food / drink / shelter need.
Try living without love and you will soon realise that it is the greatest of your needs.
This scripture tells of Jesus giving food to his followers when they are hungry, regardless of whether or not they have “faith.” Jesus has a very practical response to a most basic and practical human need. The people are hungry and Jesus gives them food to eat.
Let’s recall the event:
A crowd followed Jesus across the Sea of Galilee because they were impressed with his miracles. Jesus was concerned that they had no food and he was prepared to buy for them: “Where can we buy enough food for them…?” Learning that a boy and five small loaves and a couple of fish Jesus takes these, gives thanks, and distributed these to the crowds who ate their fill with what was left over filling twelve baskets.
While Jesus could have fed the crowds from nothing, it’s significant that he starts from the very little that one kid in the crowd does have. What the boy brings seems so insignificant in the face of the problem: “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”
Without an active awareness of the presence of Jesus with us, a little never goes far enough, and even when we have a lot, that’s never enough for us either!
The fact is five loaves and two fish are not enough to feed a hungry crowd of five thousand. But this fact does not account for the presence and power of Jesus eager to show his hand in our lives.
All we need is a little bit of desire for Him, a little trust, a little faith, a little hope and love, a little longing to forgive and to be forgiven, a little desire for more freedom… all these little bits offered to Jesus are the mark of a person of a great faith. The little we have when brought into relationship with Jesus, is enough.
We too often stop at the material element of a moment or a miracle. We see this when the people have eaten their fill and the twelve baskets-full of scraps have been collected,… Jesus “perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king,… withdrew again to the hills by himself” (Jn 6:15).
The people, now that they are are materially satisfied, miss the real point and view him as the perfect earthly leader. Who wouldn’t want to live in the reign of an earthly ruler who could work such spectacular and useful miracles?
But we who hunger are offered much much more.
Take a moment to become aware of your own hunger, longing, yearning.
Keep in mind that your material needs are not your greatest needs. Think of your deeper hunger for meaning, for truth, for friendship, for love. You are probably aware of having some meaning, truth, friendship and love in your life, but if you are like me you will be hungry for more. With Jesus human hunger is a gift, a capacity for His presence and action.
Now, and often over the next few days, turn to Jesus in prayer with this personal and directly addressed mantra:
Jesus, you feed ME,
You answer all MY needs.
Such a wonderful story illustrating how our little bit encounters Gods abundance in our neediness. And all those leftovers! I wonder what they did with it all? Like that kid who had such a meagre offering I’m in awe at such power to give more than we could ever imagine.