They all ate and were satisfied... Luke 9:17
A Word of Hope
Let’s party! The more, the merrier! Or is it? The disciples did not share that notion in this passage from Luke’s Gospel. Jesus and his disciples were retreating from the crowds, hoping for some rest and quiet to mourn the death of John the Baptist, but that was not to be. The crowds followed them to Bethsaida. Rather than turning the people away, Jesus welcomed each of them. He spent hours sharing stories of the Kingdom of God and healing those in need.
As the day went on, the disciples suggested to Jesus that those gathered should be encouraged to be on their way as it was coming to the close of day and they needed to find food and shelter. Jesus disagreed, telling the disciples to find food to offer the “party-ers.” Somewhat reluctantly, they managed to find five loaves and two fishes, reporting to Jesus that that certainly was not enough with which to feed the assembled multitudes. Jesus instructed the disciples to arrange the people into groups of fifty. He then took the loaves and fishes and offered thanks for them and began breaking the bread and filling basket after basket of food for the disciples to carry to the guests. Everyone in attendance was fed, five thousand men plus the women and children. In the end, after all of the followers were well fed, twelve full baskets still remained…perhaps one for each disciple?
This story is probably the most well-known of the miracles that Jesus performed. It is also the only miracle story that is included in all four of the Gospels; it seems fair, then, to assume it to be of marked significance.
This miracle was a lesson to the Disciples of Christ back then and is also to those of us today who are called to be disciples. The crowds that followed the disciples and Jesus to Bethsaida already had faith. They believed in the power of Jesus. Why else would they have followed him? This story is not about them. It is about the disciples who, as is often the case, were the ones lacking in faith. They recognized the peoples’ need for food, but felt that they did not have any means by which to provide. Had they been left on their own, most would have been left hungry that evening.
How often do we find ourselves in a similar situation to the disciples in this story? How often do we see a need or feel a call and our first response is that we don’t have enough – physical, emotionally, or spiritually – of what it takes to make a difference in the situation so we turn away and choose to do nothing? We feel that who we are and what we have to offer is not enough. Our lack of faith leads us to all too easily forget that all things are possible with God.
We also forget that in God’s eyes we are enough and we have enough just as we are to do the work that God calls us to do. This potential is fully realized if and when we surrender our all, our complete selves, no matter how big or small, how strong or fragile, to God in faith. God can and will do marvelous and wonderful things with us and through us. And, just like God did with the loaves and fishes, God will multiply our offerings and in the end will bless us with an abundance of spirit.
Oh God who has blessed me with all that I have and all that I am, give me the faith to believe that I am enough and the courage to give all that I am and all that I have to you.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare