Gratitude feeds the multitude

At the end of a long day when Jesus has been making the crowds welcome, talking to them about the kingdom and curing those in need of healing, the twelve disciples see a problem. They are in a lonely place with very little food. They measure their resources and judge them to be inadequate, so they come up with a solution: send the people away – let them find food and lodging for themselves. This is a normal human way of thinking: we are always afraid there will not be enough for us.

Jesus does not accept this way of thinking, but challenges the disciples: give them something to eat yourselves. In the kingdom he has been telling the crowds about, people look after one another: they don’t push each other away as soon as a need arises.  There are four steps to his response. First of all, he takes the meagre resources they have in his hands. Next he gives thanks to God for them: he sees them as a gift, not as an inadequacy. Then he breaks the loaves and fish and finally he gives them to his twelve disciples to share out. Somehow the impossible happens: there is enough to eat, and twelve baskets of scraps left over, one for each of the twelve givers.

We see the same pattern in Paul’s account of the Last Supper. First Jesus takes bread in his hands, thanks God for it, breaks it and gives it to his disciples, declaring that is his own self, his life given for them. Then he takes the cup, gives thanks to God for it and shares it with his disciples, his blood poured out for them and for everyone. The impossible happens again every time Mass is celebrated: Jesus, who taught, healed and fed his disciples, who suffered, died and rose again, is really present in the community that gathers, in his Word that is proclaimed, in the priest who repeats his words and gestures and in the bread and wine which become his Body and Blood, broken and poured out for all.

The key is gratitude. On this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, instead of complaining about how little we have, let’s take what we have, thank God for it, break it and share it with each other. If we do this with gratitude in our hearts, everyone will be fed.

Fr Chris


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