Scripture tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. That goes for people as well as events. It has been two thousand years since Philip and Andrew from our Gospel story walked this earth, but we all know people just like them.
Philip doesn’t seem to understand the life and ministry of Jesus. On one occasion he said to Jesus, “Show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” You can almost hear the disappointment in the voice of Jesus as He says, “Have I been with you so long, and you do not know Me? Having seen Me, you have seen the Father.”
In today’s Gospel, a large crowd has gathered, it’s been a long day: hot, dirty and dusty, it’s getting late, and it’s time to eat, so Jesus says to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” Philip doesn’t even have an impractical solution. His answer was devoid of any possible solution, he saw no hope of what could be done. It seems that Philip was the type of person who was incapable of creative ideas, new concepts, and new approaches, and always the first to say it can’t be done.
Then Andrew comes on the scene with an idea: there’s a boy here with five loaves and a couple of fish. Then, perhaps thinking the idea totally ridiculous, he adds, but what are these among so many? But he had glimpsed the possibility.
Jesus was not dissuaded by Philip’s pessimism, nor was He disappointed by the seeming inadequacy of the boy’s gift. Resources given willingly, generously into the hands of God produce more than we can imagine. We know the end of the story: Jesus satisfied the hunger of 5000.
We all know that there are immense problems that face the world today, there are more hungry people in the world then there are satisfied ones. There are more people who live in poverty than live in prosperity. There are more people who live in fear then there are who live in security. And it is no longer possible for us to imagine that we are not involved in these problems. We live in the same world, we breathe the same air, we are all children of the same God.
The words of St. Paul to the Ephesians urging them to find unity in the Church speak to us today: bear with one another lovingly, make every effort to preserve the unit which has the Spirit as its origin, and peace as its binding force. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and works through all and is in all.
But our world is fractured and fragmented, people hunger for bread, for hope, for dignity, and for God. These are the things that Jesus came to give. The problems we face are immense, not only in the world or in our country, but many of our families are in need of healing, and in need of love. The problem is that Christ no longer walks this earth. No longer does He preach and teach in our streets. Could it be that God depends upon us to be healers and teachers and miracle works?
Popes may write encyclicals ‘til the cows come home, bishops confirm and ordain and produce pastorals on peace and the economy ‘til the computer gives out, priests offer the sacrifice of the Mass from the rising sun to its setting, and theologians compose the most brilliant of treatises, but what good is it if we don’t live it? If we don’t live the Gospel in our day to day life?
Sometimes we forget we are the Church, and what we do, the Church does, and what we fail to do, the Church fails to do. It is up to us to make a difference in our world. We come here week after week to take part in the Eucharist but we don’t come here to get away from the rest of our week. We celebrate Eucharist to deepen our oneness with the bread of life, and in so doing to get courage from Christ to be other Christs. We cannot give what we don’t have. When we leave here, we re-enter a paradoxical world, a world where unbelief lives side by side with faith, fear with hope, hate with love, and death with life.
Each of us must ask ourselves the question, where I work, where I spend my day, is that place different, better, more human and Christian, more for others because I am there? Or am I like Philip, and throw up my hands, and say the task is too great? Perhaps say I don’t want to get involved, I’ll send a check. We don’t all have to be Mother Theresa, but we should at least be like Andrew, seeing possibilities and not putting limits to them.
Christ may not be calling you to heroic deeds, but He does expect you to make a difference, maybe in small ways: a smile of encouragement, a touch, a phone call, or perhaps the hardest of all, to forgive and forget. When you take time to explain something to a child or to an elderly person who may have trouble understanding or hearing isn’t that just a little like opening the eyes of the blind or the ears of the deaf? Or when you give your arm to someone who has trouble walking, or you give a ride to someone who is housebound, isn’t that just a little like Jesus saying to the lame, get up and walk.
No longer does Christ heal and raise the dead, no longer multiply loaves and fishes. We are His hands, His feet, and His voice. We must do His work, walk His path, and speak the truth.