"What've You Got?"
“Give them some food yourselves.”
These words of Jesus challenge me.
“Give them some food yourselves.” Our translation of the gospel words that we hear today is correct. However, the Greek, as usual, carries a richer meaning. In telling the disciples to give them something themselves, Jesus is emphasizing the fact that He wants them to be the agents of this great gift. It may also be translated, “Give them of yourselves to eat.”
In other words, “what have you got, guys? Share that.”
That’s when the complaining begins. The disciples’ first response to Jesus’ command to them is a complaint – whining: “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” There’s an apparent food shortage – a lack – and naïve Jesus cannot really hope that these few men can feed all those people, can He? They had already complained at seeing all the people in the first place. While Jesus’ heart is moved with pity, their response is “Send them away.”
The disciples are keenly aware of their shortcomings, and they don’t want them to affect their relationship with the crowd, so they simply want to send them away in the face of their own lack.
As your pastor, I understand this lack. Tasked with the job of shepherding our parish, I often look at my gifts and talents and see the same sort of shortage that the Apostles knew that day. I am not wise enough to make all the best decisions for you. I am not energetic enough to be as involved in everyone’s lives as I’d like. I am not talented enough to forge one community of faith out of so many different people.
But here’s the good news that I have realized:
No pastor is.
No pastor is wise enough, smart enough, energetic enough, or talented enough! At least, none of us are on our own. And this is the danger of the view that the disciples first take. When Jesus tells them to give them of themselves to eat, they automatically forget the One who feeds us all. They see only their food shortage, and they fear and they complain.
However, Jesus continues to respond in love and generosity. Rather than saying, “Oh! I didn’t realize you only had that little bit!” Jesus simply tells them to bring those meager gifts to Him.
And He blesses, breaks, and shares the five loaves and two fish – first with the disciples, who in turn now share them with the crowd.
And they all ate and were satisfied. In fact, the word is really “super-satisfied” – they were filled to a point that they could’ve had more if they wanted – as evidenced by the twelve baskets full afterward. And here is the lesson of the loaves and fish for us. When we share what we have with Jesus, He blesses it, returns it to us, and bids us to share it with others.
Again, as pastor I am not the most gifted, most talented, or wisest part of our faith community. I do not have all the gifts necessary to make our parish great. But the gifts are here! You have them too! All of us – even those who are now just entering the Church! When we look at what God calls us to do as a community, we should not start by complaining about our shortage of resources or our lack of talent or knowledge. Rather, we should remember that we are a community of faith gathered around Christ our Head, who asks us to give of ourselves to others so that they may also know His love and care.
On a social level, we see this opportunity in our needy brothers and sisters whom was assist through our outreach and our partnership with Ste. Laurent in Haiti. The opportunities to give are always there. The care and concern we show – especially during the challenges posed by the coronavirus – are our way of “giving them something ourselves.” This is not a political or a government thing, it's not an American thing; it is a Christian thing, it is a human thing – the love and care of our brothers and sisters among us.
But we bring it back to our community. What are your loaves and fishes? What meager gifts to you possess that Jesus is calling you to share? To follow Him fully in this regard, it takes three things:
First, it takes awareness – awareness of what gifts we have (and what we do not have). When we know what we are working with, we can know what Jesus is calling us to share.
Second, it takes trust – trust that Jesus knows what He is doing and what He is asking us to do.
Finally, it takes generosity. The disciples could have said, “Well, we have fiv- four loaves. Yeah. And one fish.” And they could have held some back for themselves. But ultimately, the gift shared is always greater than that which is given. Remember this when we are serving our community!
So, give to them of yourselves to eat. It’s a challenge – but it ultimately will become a great blessing.