In the Gospel we reflect on today taken from John 6:1-15, the small boy's offering of five barley loaves and two fish seems nothing much. As Jesus is confronted by a large hungry crowd, a challenge is presented: where will ‘we’ get enough food for them? The disciples were not exaggerating: they knew their limitations - ‘how are we going to feed them?’ It’s all so overwhelming. Jesus sees the same hungers but knows what he is going to do – through them and us. He would appeal to peoples’ hearts, to their humanity.
Jesus’ compassion made him sensitive toward the hungers in people he encountered: He fed those hungry for the truth with his teaching; his compassion fed the sorrowing; his mercy fed the marginalised; his caring fed the sick, the dying and the lonely. His love fed the hunger of every person yearning to be accepted and loved, to belong, to be forgiven and redeemed. Jesus’ feeding of the crowds stands out and challenges us as disciples. And Jesus fully expected his disciples to continue his work. We must, like the disciples, learn the value of small people and small things. In giving away the small gifts from the small people, Jesus reveals God’s generosity. There was enough. Indeed, there was plenty, and leftovers besides.
When I was in Ranong in Thailand several years ago visiting our Marist Mission there. I went into the simple, flimsy dwelling of a migrant family. They had nothing in the material sense. I was humbled by their welcome and hugely blessed by the simple offering of a glass of cool cordial. It was a humble expression of love and I wrote a song entitled ‘There’s a lot of love here,’ about the hospitality I received. They shared with me from the little they had. I am reminded of the little boy’s action. ‘Look, this is all I have. Take it and use it. And what a gift it turned out to be!
God wants to feed our hungers. Our world hungers for peace, security, community, meaning and wholeness. Can we make a difference? Can we touch peoples’ hearts, minds and wills? Can we believe that we have the power - a few loaves and fishes – to make a difference? Withholding our gifts or missing the smallest efforts of others might just mean we miss seeing a miracle.