I work in a large parish and we have five weekend Masses. That means I spend much of my day listening to the same scripture readings several times. This past Sunday’s Gospel told the story of the day that Jesus was being followed up the mountain by a large crowd of people. They had witnessed the miracles of healing he performed with the sick and they wanted to see more. Jesus became concerned that it was late in the day and the people would need to have something to eat. His disciples were concerned, too, because they knew that there was no way to feed such a crowd. Perhaps Jesus should send them on their way or it would become too late for them to find food. At that moment they couldn’t have known that in just a little while the people would not only get what they came for but much, much more, and it all happened because a child thought to pack a lunch.
We all know the rest of the story. The disciples bring the boy’s lunch to Jesus. Jesus takes the loaves and fishes and multiplies them until, not only was everyone full, but there were baskets of food left over. I often wonder who the child was and why the apostle Andrew even bothered to mention to Jesus that he was there. Did the boy see what was happening and approach the apostles to offer his meal? Did Andrew suspect that Jesus, who could heal the sick and forgive sins, could do something wonderful with two loaves and couple dead fish? Whatever the reason it brought us a glimpse, a foreshadowing, of what was to come – the Holy Eucharist.
Like that crowd, I’ve been following Jesus up the mountain, practically stalking him, whining because I want to see a miracle or some sign that he’s working on my problems. I’m an excitable and impatient person. I get easily overwhelmed by life and I am inclined to harangue God when I don’t think he’s moving fast enough. But, as usual, I fail to see the obvious when it’s right in front of my nose. Jesus was working on the problem before Andrew even started looking around for a solution. Jesus uses the ordinary to do his greatest work. In this case he used a child who graciously offered to sacrifice his dinner, even though it was ludicrous to do so. But Jesus didn’t laugh at his spontaneous attempt to help. He accepted the offering and blessed it, broke it and changed something as mundane as bread and fish into a banquet for thousands with leftovers. When you think about the miracle at Canaan when the jars of water became a select vintage at his touch or when he told Peter, James and John to throw their nets over the other side and nearly sank the boat with the huge number of fish, Jesus always goes over the top in his generosity. He takes what little scraps we have to offer and turns them into a party.
In this reading I believe Jesus is saying to me, “Work with me here.” Am I able to spontaneously offer what inadequate resources I have for him to use as he wants? Can I let go of the things I think I need with a childlike spirit so that others can have enough? The funny thing about miracles is that they’re everywhere you look if you know how to see them. We look for the incredible and amazing when true miracles can be found in the ordinary. Jesus will work miracles for us, but first we have to bring something to the table.
Perhaps what we bring is hope and faith. Maybe the boy hoped he could help ,and in faith, believed that Jesus could make it work.