(17 Sunday July 29, 2018 - John 6: 1-15)
A GOOD friend once shared with me this anecdote: “Man says, ‘Show me and I will trust you.’ God says, ‘Trust me and I will show you.’” Jesus in the gospels performed many miracles. But they were not mere performances like magic tricks.
In the gospel of John, these miracles were called signs. Signs point to something other than itself. When Jesus fed the huge crowd from the gift of the young boy - 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, the event enables us to see that Jesus cares and loves us.
In the gospel of Mark, Jesus saw the crowd and saw them like a flock of sheep without a shepherd. He had compassion for them. His miracles and signs are also an invitation to believe, to trust and to have faith in him.
In the gospel today (John 6:1-15), we are reminded of three things: (1) the face of the Mercy of God, (2) our humanity - helplessness and giftedness and (3) the joy of thanksgiving.
Jesus is the Face of the Mercy of God. “So he went up to the hill and sat down with his disciples... Jesus raised his eyes and saw the crowd was coming to him. Where shall we buy bread for all these people to eat?” (John 6: 3-5) Jesus took the initiative when he saw the crowd.
Pope Francis during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy wrote that “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person reveals the mercy of God.”
The crowd symbolizes the world today. It goes beyond the membership of the Catholic Church. God does not look after Catholics alone. God responds to a need - in this case hunger which is universal and comes in many different forms. God’s mercy is therefore a vast ocean - wide and deep. We are therefore invited as Pope Francis affirms it, “to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives.
Humanity - our helplessness and giftedness. “Philip answered him,”Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.'” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” (John 6: 7-9).
In the face of an immense task, most often our response is to be overwhelmed - how can we feed a thousand people? We are helpless. Things around us are crumbling and breaking. Yet Jesus knew what to do. He did not say “Where can YOU get enough” or “Where can I get enough” rather he asked, “Where can WE get enough” to solve the problem. Lord Jesus asks us to work with him.
The little boy offered his all - 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, insignificant for a crowd but enough for Jesus to make a miracle possible. Nothing is too little or too small a gift to be offered to God - our humanity is made holy when offered up to God. Fr. Manoling Francisco, SJ, a favorite teacher of mine wrote a hymn entitled “Christify.” Bishop Pablo David translated the word to mean “gawing si Kristo” or “tulutang maging si Kristo” - allow Christ to transform us.
These are the words of the hymn: “Christify the gifts we bring to You, bounty of the earth receive anew. Take and bless the work of our hands. Christify these gifts at Your command... Turn the bread and wine, our hearts implore, to the living presence of the Lord. Blessed and broken, shared with all in need; all our hungers, sacred bread will feed...We who by this bread You sanctify, draw the world for You to Christify.” Like St. Columban may we be able to say, “We are no longer ourselves but Christ.”
The Joy of Thanksgiving. “Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks and distributed them to hose who were seated. He did the same for the fish and gave them as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten enough, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the pieces left over that nothing may be lost.’” (John 6: 11-12)
By the time John wrote this gospel, Christians were already celebrating and had been nourished by the Holy Eucharist for many years. Jesus continues to feed our hunger through the Eucharist to this day. When we receive the Eucharist, the priest says, “The Body of Christ.” And we reply, “Amen!” The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches that it comes from the same root as the word “believe.” This root expresses solidity, trustworthiness, faithfulness. And so we can understand why “Amen” may express both God's faithfulness towards us and our trust in him (CCC 1062). Every time we say “amen” we trust in God’s faithfulness.
The Holy Eucharist is the the highest form of thanksgiving to God. The entire celebration of the Eucharist is an act of thanksgiving. Pope Francis at an audience reflecting on the Body of Christ said, “Say thank you! The heart that knows how to say thank you is a good heart, a noble heart, a heart that is happy.” Joy comes from a grateful heart.
Do you still believe in miracles? The word miracle comes from the Greek thaumasion and the Latin miraculum—“as that which causes wonder and astonishment, being extraordinary in itself and amazing or inexplicable by normal standards.” In the face of great technological and scientific advancement miracles seem to have no place in our society. We have lost our sense of wonder. We have more trust in ourselves than in God.
“Man says, ‘Show me and I will trust you.’ It is this spirituality according to Pope Francis in Laudato Si, “which forgets God as all-powerful and Creator” we should not accept. This is “how we end up worshipping earthly powers, or ourselves usurping the place of God...” (LS #75) “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). God says, “Trust me and I will show you.”
Here are some questions to ponder: What are you most grateful for today? Are you willing to give it to God - as your 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish? Will you trust God and let Him show you the way? Will you allow God to transform you today?