To share in nothingness
When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, "This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves." He said to them, "There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves." But they said to him, "Five loaves and two fish are all we have here." Then he said, "Bring them here to me," and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over–twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.
- Matthew 14:13-21
Today we are commemorating the dedication of a major structure of the church, the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. Built in the 5th century it stands to remind us all of our fundamental belief, as Roman Catholics, in the Theotokos. That more than the mother of the Jesus, God made man, Mary is herself the mother of God, the bearer of God.
Bread is the common theme in today’s readings, starting with the Book of Numbers when the Israelites started to get bored with the manna sent from the heavens and began complaining to Moses, comparing the bland manna they were eating in the dessert to the fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices that they were enjoying in Egypt, never mind that everyday they are whipped and made to work like machines.
In our Psalm, we hear the song of gratitude of a people who believes that those who follow God, those who obey his commands, those who would walk in his ways will be fed with the finest wheat and the sweetest honey.
And in our Gospel, we heard of the story of Jesus, who seeing the crowd and knowing that if they were to go home, they would go hungry and tired, physically. And so, what did he do? He performed a miracle and fed them.
Jesus do not only feed our spirit and souls, he also meets our bodily needs.
But what I would like to focus on in today’s Gospel was the circumstances that led to this event of the multiplication of the bread and fish.
In last Saturday’s Gospel (Matthew 14:1-12), we heard of the story on how John the Baptist was executed for the whim of a beautiful lady whose mother hated him so much for being a prophet. Today is the continuation of that story (Matthew 14:13-21), and it started with a grieving Jesus who wanted to be alone, hearing of his cousin’s unjust death.
He was very human. The sadness that he felt over the news of the sudden and unjust death of his beloved cousin was just too heavy for him and he wanted to be alone. He wanted to withdraw from all the activities, from all the excitement and just to be silent, to think, to cry, to vent out his frustrations, perhaps, to even be angry and just shout his heart out.
Despite the grief, on seeing the people who followed him on foot, wanting to experience healing from him – himself wounded – he could not help but feel pity for them. And so, he let go of himself, he let his own need take the backstage as he tried to meet the needs of the many people who wanted a morsel of the life giving bread.
When the time came for the people to go home, his concern for them even became more apparent as he made sure that none would go hungry – physically and spiritually – and so he endeavored on feeding them, this despite his own lack.
Today, we saw Jesus in his lowliest, in his nothingness, but despite this he was able to share himself to others who were more in need.
When Charm was diagnosed with bone cancer he was asking God why of all people, why does he have to undergo such suffering. Just a few months from the time he was diagnosed, his grandmother, who took care of him, died of cancer, and on the day his diagnosis came, his aunt, who at the time took over his care, was diagnosed with a metabolic disease. Charm was 13.
When he attended a camp for children with cancer, he got to know other children, some younger than him, who had to suffer even worse, but still could afford to smile and give strength to others.
Why me? What have I done to deserve all these problems? These crosses?
It is in our nothingness that God would make himself manifest. It is in those times when we are so down, when God comes to rescue us, but only if we recognize his hand and take hold of it, only then would we be able to enjoy the heavenly banquet of bliss and glory.
Now, we ask ourselves, in my nothingness, could I afford to give?
Lord, grant me the strength to be the bread that would feed your hungry flock. Amen.
Photo: From the net.