A true Christian is not a mere fan of Christianity. He is a committed follower; a dicsiple. As disciples, Christians sit at the feet of Jesus ready and willing to know and do his will even in the most difficult circumstances.
St Paul addresses the Christians in Ephesus saying, “I, the prisoner in the Lord (a committed disciple), implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation.” Indeed, we are all called and gathered in the Spirit, under the umbrella of one Faith, one Hope, and one Baptism in Christ, which makes us all sons and daughters of one Father.This calling demands that we share one fellowship and truth until that day when we will be gathered at the table of God’s kingdom, hoping that no one will be lost. This fellowship must be expressed in our committment to preserve the unity of the Spirit, through peace, complete selflessness, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another charitably.
The early Christians were united, heart and mind through the breaking of the Bread and the breaking of the Word; an extension of the Spirit of love and onenness. Through this, they not only recognised the constant presence of Jesus, but the recongition of each other, especially those in need. It is not about me. It is about us. In sacrifice we forfeit our rights to benefit others.
Elisha, the prophet, sacrifices what is due to him, the bread of the first fruits, instructing that it should be used to feed the hungry.
In the gospel today the crowd is gathered for all sorts of needs. The sick were cured and miracles performed. But in the midst of these spiritual needs and support, Jesus recognises hunger in the people. They are starving. They need something to eat. Then he turns to Philip to discuss the possibility of buying some food for the people. [Philip makes a very good risk assessment on the danger of spending such a huge amount [Two Hundred Dinarii] which would only purchase a small amount that goes no where to feed the whole crowd.] But Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, has another idea [probably a strange one], getting a little boy’s ‘pack lunch’ to feed the crowd. It all sounds like a fairy tale; but miracles do sound so. Don’t they? That is why they are what they are – extra-ordinary things emerging out of ordinary situations.
Miracle story is not necessarily about whether it happened exactly as the story is told but it is about what the story does to the lives of all who hear it and the generations to come.
In this passage the miracle is that we can learn to trust the little we have more than waiting until we win or receive some huge amount. The miracle is that we can start from where we are, not waiting until where we want to be comes to us. It is a miracle to believe that we can find help from where we least expect it. The poor boy has fed the crowd, including the rich among them. It is a miracle to know that sharing makes all the difference. It is in the distribution of resources that we all prosper. Through this passage we receive the miracle that calms our anxiety and worry over what we have – the fear that we do not have enough to share. The miracle is that the drops of food materials donated to foodbank in this country accumulates to become tons of food feeding millions of people in this country. The poor no longer exists only in our minds or far across the sea. They are our neighbours. We see them everyday.
The best miracle in this passage is Jesus’ instruction to his disciples after everyone had been fed: “Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing is wasted.” Jesus said this over two thousand years ago but still relevant today. The miracle is in its relevance to our lives. There is a link between the poverty of the world and the senseless wastes in the world. Millions of empty stomachs matching millions of overflowing waste containers of food and other resources meant for the hungry and the needy. We find these wastes mostly in homes, restaurants and supermarkets.
Let me add one last miracle of this passage: Jesus escapes being forced to become king. He realises it is because of their hunger for power and control that they want to make him king. Look around you and you will see the link between hunger in the world and power control – starting from local corruption within nations to the international and foreign policies that exploit the poverty and hunger of the underdeveloped societies to push some selfish and often irrelevant foreign policies and agenda. Yes, the miracle is that it strikes our little consciences.