[17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, July 26, 2015 / 2 Kgs 4:42-44/ Ps 145:10-11, 15-16, 17-18/ Eph 4:1-6 / John 6:1-15]
“The world is in trouble because of the lack of thinking.” These words are quoted by Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate. Looking at the world of today, a superficial way of thinking and seeing situations will give rise to superficial and inadequate solutions. Typical examples of superficial thinking include research on human embryos in Great Britain designed to improve health yet the actual research involves destruction of human life. Human problems need truly human solutions.
Jesus teaches his disciples a deeper way of seeing things and how to respond in front of challenges. In front of a crowd of 5000 hungry people Jesus asks Philip what to do. Philip states that not even 200 days wages worth of bread would be enough to satiate the crowd. Philip sees the big picture. As for Andrew he notices the small details. He spots a boy with 5 loaves and 2 fish but feels this will be useless in front of such a big crowd. What is needed in front of this situation? To see the big picture or notice the small details? Both! But the disciples are working together. They are not one mind and one heart. They need to work together. Philip and Andrew show us two very typical human responses in front of problems – on the one hand to become discouraged trying to do everything or the other extreme, thinking that nothing can be done and losing hope. Their reactions are logical but the response of Jesus is theological. The disciples are thinking mathematically but the Lord wants to teach them how to think evangelically. The disciples look at the vast crowd but Jesus “looked up.” He turned his gaze towards the great Provider, the great Multiplier – his Father. And he gets the answer. “The Lord feeds his people,” as the psalmist reminds us.
Jesus asks the crowd to recline on the grass! The disciples are flapping in front of the problem, meanwhile Jesus is singing along to Avril Lavigne “Chill out, what ya yelling for?” Jesus takes the loaves and gives thanks. He appreciates what he has. They say that the best thing to have in excess in life and the only thing that does you no harm is thanksgiving. The Lord teaches the disciples to believe in God’s power. What they lack, God will provide. Five plus two equals five thousand. It is a call to let go and let God.
In front of our problems and the problem of our world is our response merely logical or theological? It is not to denounce human reason as our intellect is a wonderful gift from God our Father. But it is to be aware that we should trust in God’s love and ask him what is best in the situation. In trying to respond when we offer what we have to the Lord he will multiply our efforts, our energy so that we will never lack the necessary grace for the God given task entrusted to us.
What is the sign that God is acting in our initiatives and efforts? When are they really fruitful? When there is communion. The big vision of Philip needs to be complemented by the vision of Andrew which notices more the small details. The differences can enrich us. When we try to do things alone often the fruit is division.
Someone told me that they work for a huge international organization and in the offices there is so much envy and rivalry that instead of creating union there is division! Jesus came to make us one, to teach us how to work with him and to work together. Working with God and others multiplies the fruit of our labors.
Once we had an activity with the Youth of the Philippines. Our preparations were pressured, many things to prepare but little time. But God gave us creativity and strength. The group was composed of 45 teenagers and the theme of our encounter was: “I have a dream.” The students enjoyed the encounter with the Lord. We placed all our efforts, our talks, the dynamics of prayer, the animation and music in the hands of God, offering our five loaves and two fish and God did the rest. He is the great provider and multiplier. At times I was worried about the organization and another missionary with me kept reassuring me “Relax, just enjoy. God will provide what we lack.” And true enough we did our part, God did the rest and everyone had more than enough to eat!
We pray that in front of life’s challenges we remember that our God is the great provider. He asks us to trust and believe. In front of the world’s problems let us pray for a deeper thinking, a deeper vision of reality, the capacity to discern the will of God. In this way we can find truly human solutions to human problems. Let us learn from Jesus how to work with him, to collaborate with his Spirit and work with others in a spirit of communion. Placing Jesus in the center of our works will ensure that the loaves and fish we offer will be multiplied to feed many. Amen.