Our readings today include two stories about food. And in thinking about food a little bit, we quickly start to think about sharing: “Here, have some of this pizza.” “Hey, quit hogging all the Cheetos.” Food and sharing—they just seem to go together. And thinking more about food and sharing, we come to the question of whether there will be enough. “Did you bring enough for everyone in the class?” Or, when we’re hosting a get together, we worry about having enough for everyone, and if more people show up unexpectedly we worry even more that there will be enough.
Todays’ 1st Reading and Gospel reading are about food and sharing and whether there will be enough. We hear about the man from Baal-shalishah [which I hear is beautiful this time of year] who brings this nice presentation of loaves from the first harvest to the great prophet Elisha. When Elisha tells him to give it to the people to eat he’s thrown off: “There’s like 100 people out there!”
In the Gospel we hear that well-known passage about the five loaves and two fish, and facing a crowd of at least 5000 people, Andrew asks, “What good are these for so many?” In both cases there’s doubt that such a seemingly meager offering can be any good at all. In a sense, both were saying, “This is all I got. It ain’t much, and I don’t know what you plan on doing with it, but here it is.” And yet for God it was more than enough; there was even some left over.
These are rich passages about God’s providence. But with that in mind, I’d like us to consider kind of putting ourselves in the place of the bread in these stories. Perhaps sometimes we’re tempted to think that we’re too small or too young or too old or too “insignificant” to be enough/to do any good. What we are able to offer to God can seem sometimes to be far too little. But it is God who gave us the gift of our life—a gift meant to be shared—and in God’s hands it’s more than enough. And so we must be willing to let God work with us and through us. Taking a cue from the guys in our Scripture readings, we too can say, “This is all I got. It might not seem like much to me, and I don’t know what you plan on doing with me, but here I am.”
Of course, human beings—created in the image and likeness of God—are much more complicated and important than mere grains of wheat, and the uniqueness of each person is indeed a gift. Yet, in our 2nd reading, St. Paul implores us to live according to our Christian calling, which we all receive in baptism. We are called to live in humility, gentleness, and patience; united in faith, in hope, and in charity—good things, certainly, but not always easy to do. And so we need help. We need Christ’s help, the help of His Presence. We need the Sacraments.
We might be a bit skeptical at what God is able to do with us. After all, it just might take a miracle to be the Christians that we’re called to be. But not to worry. The miraculous is hardly a rare occurrence, for just as the Eucharist starts out as the humble gifts of bread and wine, the humble gifts of our own lives can be transformed as well.
And we don’t do this on our own. We are bound together in one body and one spirit; one Lord, one faith, one baptism. Here in the Mass we share in the great Mystery that we are caught up in: that we are members of the Body of Christ. The bread that is brought to the altar for consecration is made up of countless grains of wheat crushed, blended, and baked into bread; the wine is made from countless grapes crushed…and whatever else you do to it to make wine.
So too, the Church is made up of countless individuals blended together in the waters of baptism and “baked” with the fire of the Holy Spirit. It’s important that the bread and wine are brought forth from among the people, for that is what they represent. In presenting the gifts of bread and wine at Mass, we also present our very selves, the gift of our own lives to be offered up to God and made holy.
In order for grains and grapes to become bread and wine, they have to stop being just individual grains and grapes. But when they do they become something which can be consecrated and transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. So too with us. When we’re willing to die to ourselves we are able to be transformed, able to share in the very life of God. What starts out as bread and wine brought to this altar becomes the living presence of Christ for the whole community, because we indeed become what we receive.
From the humble gifts we bring—bread, wine, ourselves—we can become a miraculous multiplication in God’s hands. We go forth from here back to our own places, yet still bound together in the Body of Christ, to exclaim the life to be found in Christ to a world that is hungry for fulfillment, hungry for meaning, hungry for truth, hungry for beauty, hungry for goodness, hungry for hope, hungry for love that is true. The Lord is not limited by our limitations, so let us allow ourselves to be taken, blessed, broken, and shared.
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