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17th Sunday of OT (B)

Feeding the multitude of our world. JOHN 6:1–15

If I had to choose to be a character in this weekend’s gospel passage, I would surely like to be one of the disciples. I know exactly how stupefied I would have been the moment Jesus instructed my brothers and me to sit the people down with the intention to feed them all from five barley loaves and two fish, with an additional 200 denarii in our pockets.

Yes, I would have seen previous miracles performed by the Master and yes, I would have had some faith in His power, but I would have been confused and somewhat anxious to see exactly how He was going to feed the multitude which had gathered.

Having reflected on the gospel passage, two interesting things came to mind. Firstly, we read that “Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted.”

The miracle of feeding the multitude began with Jesus taking the loaves and the fish: the five barley loaves and the two fish which were offered by a boy in the crowd. Consider that Jesus blessed and multiplied what was essentially a gift offering. For our Lord to bless and meet the needs of the many, a sacrifice on the part of only one was needed.

The boy selflessly and generously gave up the little gift offering he had which invites us this weekend to reflect upon our own generosity for the sake of others. Consider this therefore: to what extent are you offering up your gifts, time or talents to God for Him to bless so as to meet the needs of the many around you?

Secondly, whenever I think about the miracle of feeding the multitude, I always try to imagine if the food appeared from nowhere or if it fell from the sky. I could never know for sure because I have never seen or heard of food literally appearing out of thin air or falling from the sky!

However, I do not know of any other method which feeds many people with leftovers that is more effective than a Dutch style party: everyone who is invited brings something to share.

Now, if one person must provide for many by himself or herself only, unless that person is wealthy, it may be a strain on them and chances are food may run out. But when everyone who has been invited chips in and offers a little bit of this here, and a little bit of that there and so on and so on, there is always an abundance to partake of and an abundance left over!

I present this second point to highlight one version I heard years ago of how Jesus fed the multitude. What if the loaves and the fish did not appear from thin air or fell from the sky? What if all the people gathered had a “little food” of their own, just enough to feed themselves.

And what if Jesus’ acceptance and blessing of the gift offering which the boy made inspired those gathered to take out the little they had to give to the disciples who were in the process of distributing the initially blessed loaves and fish?

None of us will know for sure the exact way in which the multitude was fed, but what I do know for sure is that the generosity of the boy who offered what he had can inspire each of us to generously share the gifts we have for the well-being of others.

If we all give of the little we possess to those in need, none of us would ever be in want. In similar fashion to Jesus, our combined generosity, therefore, would always feed “the multitudes of our present world” with an abundance left over.

The Gospel Meditations for July were by Denzil Williams, Moderator for Youth and Young Adult Ministry of the Southern Vicariate. He has been actively engaged with delivering talks and facilitating workshops and retreats for over ten years within faith-based organisations and schools across Trinidad and Tobago. He also is the author of two self-help books, The Gift of Emotional Pain and The Spirituality of the Obvious.