And, Jesus says, “Give them some food yourselves.” The disciples protested, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have.” Jesus said, “Bring them to me.” As always with the gospels, there is a lesson for us.
The first is found in Jesus’ directions to His disciples when they are faced with an overwhelming situation. He says to give them food yourselves. Somewhat embarrassed, they hold up a few loaves and fishes and shrug their shoulders. Jesus takes the food and blesses the little they have to offer. But then, rather than hand out the loaves and fishes Himself, He returns them to the disciples who are told to distribute them to the crowd. This is the first lesson from the gospel. God depends on us to take part in the aid and redemption of the world.
Three times a week at the corner in New York City a blind lady stands at the bus stop. She climbs aboard the bus and is warmly greeted by the driver. She sits down right behind him. In fact, he had saved the seat. They carry on an animated conversation as he drives. She asks how his family is. Then she tells him she is scared about losing Meals-on-Wheels. When they reach the blind woman’s stop, the driver helps her off the bus. Then he helps her access the other side of the street in heavy traffic. When he returns to the bus, the woman is still standing where he had left her. “She won’t move till she knows I got back safely”, he explains. He honks his horn three times and she smiles and waves.
A blind lady and a lowly bus driver, two insignificant people on the world stage, had hardly five loaves and two fish between them. Yet, Christ blessed what they had and handed it back to them. Each made a contribution from what little they had. They could have cursed and complained that they had so little and withheld their meager gifts. But, instead they fed each other from their small store of compassion and caring. Jesus tells His disciples, “Bring them, bring the insignificant loaves and fish to me and do not back off. Do not say it is too little, what can we do? I know the problems are great and your resources are tiny, but don’t give up. Bring them to me to be blessed.”
A man wrote to Ann Landers. He had lived through the Depression in the 1930’s. His message was that kids today have an easy time of it compared to teens of his day. A teen responded to his letter and she wrote – “Let me ask your generation a few questions. Were your parents divorced? Almost every one of my friends comes from a broken home. Were you thinking of suicide when you were twelve? Did you have an ulcer when you were sixteen? Did your classmates carry guns and knives? How many of your classmates came to school high on drugs or drunk? Did your school have armed security guards in the halls? What percentage of your graduating class also graduated from a drug and alcohol rehab center?” She ends by saying, “When I am your age, I won’t be looking back. I’ll just thank God I survived.” With so many temptations to face, some parents wonder, “What are we to do? We have nothing but five loaves and two fish?”
That might be the response of someone trying to make an honest living. The pressures to cut corners, the “Everyone is doing it” philosophy, cutthroat competition and office politics sap energy and spirit. How can one be a Christian in the workplace? They have all the power. I just have bread and fish. That might also be the response of a spouse desperately trying to make a go of a troubled marriage, who has grown weary of being the only partner working on the relationship. The other partner is never around and when they are home, their mind is elsewhere. The spouse says sadly, “There is nothing left in this marriage but five loaves and two fish.” Many people today have cares, anxieties and sorrows. They ask, “What are we to do?”
That was the response of the disciples when five thousand plus people followed Jesus into the desert. Remember Jesus’ reply, “You give them something to eat” and the disciples protested, “How? We have nothing but five loaves and two fish.” Jesus then says, “Bring them to me.” He looked up to Heaven and blessed and broke the loaves. He gave them to the disciples who gave them to the crowd and all were fed. What is the lesson here?
For those at their wits end and stuck with just five loaves and two fish in the face of overwhelming hunger, the lesson is to realize that they have a friend. The friend who says, “Bring them to me, bring me your skills and weaknesses, bring me your strengths and fears, bring me your children and their futures. What little you have, bring them to me and I will make them adequate for the task. Bring them all to me. Bring me your hopes, your dreams, your convictions, your burdens, your challenges, your responsibilities and your hurts.”
You see when life gets the best of us, perhaps, it is often because we focus too much on how little we can do and too little on how much Christ can do. In any case, know that He will have the last word. He says, “Don’t try to avoid your cross, pick it up and carry it. Don’t carry it to Calvary, just bring it to me.”
2 thoughts on “Fr. Bob’s Homily – 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time”
An excellent sermon, so helpful encouraging and of course a reminder of how much we must trust in God completely. It has deepened my understanding of the “five loaves and two fish”
Thank you so much, Fr Bob, for this reflection. Really great to meditate on your sharing, giving me much to take to heart and share with others.
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