“Give them something to eat yourselves.”
There are two stages to today’s gospel. We are first of all to make an effort to listen to Jesus, taking time to spend in his presence and receive the Word of Life and the Bread of Life. We listen carefully and allow him to speak to the heart asking ourselves, “What is God saying to me in this passage? Is there a command to obey? An example to follow? A sin to avoid? A prayer to repeat?” At Mass we get a clear opportunity to focus our mind on God and his Word. Jesus talks to us during the Mass and even if we feel we have little to offer he promises to feed our souls with the Word and Bread of Life. We will learn what to do and be given the nourishment to do it. When the people responded to Jesus there was enough and more than enough for everybody. So the first step is to acknowledge Jesus as the blessed generous life-giving Son of God.
The second step is to be active. Why not promise today to do better about world poverty? Studies show that the world today produces enough food in grain alone to provide every human being on the planet with 3,600 calories a day, not counting such foods as tuber crops, vegetables, beans, nuts, fruits, meats, and fish. Over the past twenty-five years, food production has easily exceeded world population growth. This means that there is no good reason for any human being in today’s world to go hungry. But even in a rich country like Ireland many children grow up in poverty, many babies never get a chance to live because too many adults are self-centred and waste food, possessions and talents.
It is too easy to blame God, too easy to blame governments, too easy to see these things as other people’s problems. They are also our problems. Sometimes reflecting on the facts helps us get a perspective. Did you know, for example, that six million Europeans eat as much food as 240 million Africans? Pope John XX111 wrote in 1961“The problem in feeding the world’s hungry population lies with our political lack of will, our economic system biased in favor of the affluent, our militarism, and our tendency to blame the victims of social tragedies such as famine. We all share responsibility for the fact that populations are undernourished. Therefore, it is necessary to arouse a sense of responsibility in individuals, especially among those more blessed with this world’s goods.”
As Christians we have to commit ourselves to share and to work with God in communicating His compassion to all. God is a caring Father, but He wants our co-operation. That’s why the early Christians shared generously what they had with the needy. People of our time have to be encouraged to share, even when they think they have little to offer. Those with a positive attitude say,. “I’ll see what I can do, and I will trust Jesus to do the rest.” Mother Teresa listened to Jesus and felt called to go to serve the slum-dwellers of Calcutta with just a few coins in her pocket. When she died forty-nine years later, God had turned her original twenty cents into eighty schools, three hundred mobile dispensaries, seventy leprosy clinics, thirty homes for the dying, thirty homes for abandoned children and forty thousand volunteers from all over the world to help her. We may say, “I do not have enough money or talent to make any difference.” But the Bible guarantees that every believer has at least one gift from the Holy Spirit. At this Mass we thank God for all we have and begin to plan wisely how to give it all away for God’s glory and the benefit of our neighbours.