Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (José Antonio Pagola)

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Give them some food yourselves

Jesus is busy healing the sick and malnourished people that have been brought to him from all over.  He does it, according to the evangelist, because their suffering moves him.  Meanwhile, his disciples see that it is getting late.  Their dialogue with Jesus allows us to penetrate the deep meaning of the episode, wrongly called “the multiplication of the loaves.”

The disciples offer Jesus a realistic and reasonable proposal: “Dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”  They have already received from Jesus the attention they needed. Let each one now return to his village and buy something to eat that he can afford and is available.

Jesus’ reaction is surprising: “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.”  Hunger is too serious a problem for all of us to disregard each other and to let each one solve his own hunger by himself to the extent possible.  Now is not the time to go our separate ways, but rather to unite more than ever to share among us all that we have, without excluding anyone.

The disciples make Jesus see that there are only five loaves and two fish.  It does not matter. What is little is sufficient when it is shared with generosity.  Jesus orders everybody to sit down on the grass to celebrate a great meal.  Suddenly everything changes.  Those who were about to leave to satisfy their hunger, each in his own village, are seated together around Jesus to share what little they have.  That is what Jesus wants to see in the human community.

What happens to the loaves and fish in Jesus’ hands?  He does not “multiply” them.  First he blesses God and gives him thanks: this food comes from God; it belongs to everyone.  He then keeps breaking them and giving them to the disciples.  They, in turn, go on giving them to the people.  The loaves and fish pass from one person to another.  This is how all are able to satisfy their hunger.

The Archbishop of Tangier has raised his voice once again to remind us of “the suffering of thousands of men, women and children who are left to fend for themselves, or are persecuted by governments, and are handed over to the usurious and enslaving power of the mafia, and who beg, survive, suffer and die on the path of immigration.”

Instead of joining forces to root out hunger in the world, we only think of closing ourselves in our “selfish well-being,” building barriers that are more and more degrading and murderous.  In the name of which God do we send them away so they may sink in their misery?  Where are Jesus’ followers?

When do we hear the cry of Jesus in our celebrations of the Eucharist, “Give them some food yourselves”?

José Antonio Pagola

August 3, 2014
18 Ordinary Time (A)
Matthew 14, 13-21

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