How to turn our littleness into greatness?

Eighteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time

Isaiah 55:1-3

All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, buy grain and eat; Come, buy grain without money, wine and milk without cost! Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what does not satisfy? Only listen to me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Pay attention and come to me;listen, that you may have life.I will make with you an everlasting covenant,the steadfast loyalty promised to David.

Romans 8:35, 37-39

What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things,* nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth,* nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Matthew 14:13-21

When Jesus heard of it, 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." [Jesus] 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.

As the world goes through a rough year of uncertainties, helplessness, conflicts and tragedies, how encouraging and comforting it is to hear from St. Paul in the second reading that no hardship, persecution or sword will separate us from the love of Christ (Ref. Rm 8:35). Whatever the circumstances, we shall overcome, “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rm 8:35).

Indeed, St. Paul’s statement of faith, Isaiah’s prophecy “come to me … listen, so that you may live” (Is 55:3) and the Psalmist’s beautiful verse of gratitude “You open your hand to feed us, Lord, and satisfy our needs” set the scene for one of Jesus’ greatest miracles – the famous miracle of the five loaves and two fish (Ps 145) .

In the Gospel reading, we hear that Jesus has been healing the sick. It has become late. The place is deserted so the disciples ask Jesus to send the crowds to the villages to buy food for themselves. But Jesus said “[Y]ou give them something to eat” (Mt 14:16). To the disciples, that seems a formidable if not impossible task for “there were about five thousand men” (Lk 9:14) and “[t]wo hundred silver coins would not buy enough bread for each of them to have a piece” (Jn 6:7).

Pope Francis spoke about this miracle on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ in the Church of Santa Maria Consolatrice on 23 June 2019. By requesting his disciples to give the crowds something to eat, Jesus is telling us, whatever we have, no matter how little it is, can bear fruit if we share, if we give it away as the boy, who has five loaves and two fish, has done (Ref. Jn 6:9). The Holy Father said that “The Lord does great things with our littleness, as he did with the five loaves”. God’s omnipotence is all about love and love can accomplish great things with little. Our little has great value in the eyes of Jesus if we do not keep it to ourselves.

The miracle happens when Jesus “raised his eyes to heaven, pronounced the blessing, broke the loaves, and handed them to the disciples to distribute to the people” (Mt 14:19). The first actions that Jesus does are to pray and to bless; praying for God’s providence and blessing for turning the five loaves and two fish into enough food for the crowds. Jesus shows us what the blessing means by freely distributing the loaves. The Holy Father reminded us that blessing is not about saying nice words but about speaking goodness with love. When God blesses us during Mass, we receive the encouragement to go on. When we praise God together in church, we are in turn blessing Him and it is the joy of praise that heals our hearts.

The emphasis of the gospel account is not on the multiplication of the bread but on the act of sharing (Jesus breaking the loaves, and handing them to the disciples to distribute to the people) and trusting in God the Father and his providence. “Surprisingly, the account of the multiplication of the loaves does not mention the multiplication itself”; “He does not change the five loaves into five thousand” but “those fives loaves never run out”, the Holy Father said.

Having received the blessing at the end of the Mass, if we in turn bless others, we are doing something for them, speaking a goodness with love, turning a word into a gift, then the goodness will never run out.

Posted: August 2, 2020

Shiu Lan

Shiu Lan is your Catholic neighbour with a simple faith and likes praying the Rosary. With a B.Sc from the University of Hong Kong, she worked in Information Technology and Project Management before working with joy at home.

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