JESUS PAYS A HUNDREDFOLD THE LITTLE WE OFFER
(A biblical refection on THE 17th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B] – July 26, 2015)
Gospel Reading: John 6:1-15
First Reading: 2Kings 4:42-44; Psalms: Psalm 145:10-11,15-18; Second Reading: Ephesians 4:1-6
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a multitude followed Him, because they saw the signs which He did on those who were diseased. Jesus went up into the hills, and there sat down with His disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up His eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to Him, Jesus said to Phillip, “How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” This He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus then took the loaves, and when He had given thanks, He distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, He told His disciples, “Gather up the fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign which He had done, they said, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!”
Perceiving then that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, Jesus withdrew again to the hills by Himself. (John 6:1-15 RSV)
Today’s Gospel story of the little boy who gave away his lunch occurred in Tiberias, the beautiful resort city on the west bank of the Sea of Galilee. It was during the Paschal season and Jesus saw a great crowd approaching. They reminded Him of the vast congregation that followed their God out of Egypt twelve centuries earlier, who were fed in the desert each morning with bread from heaven. Now looking at Philip, standing nearby, Jesus asked his opinion about feeding these tired people with bread. Philip replied that the idea was simply impractical.
Having overheard the conversation, a small boy, perhaps ten years old, told the apostle Andrew that Jesus could have his lunch if that would help. Andrew smiled politely at the youth’s naivete, yet was impressed with his “foolish” generosity. He finally felt compelled to relate the boy’s offer to Jesus. “But what are they among so many?” he quickly added, lest he sound ridiculous. Surprisingly, Jesus was pleased with the offer. He accepted the gift and proceeded to use it to feed 5000 men, not counting women and children.
The gift was insignificant, but what gift isn’t, when offered to God, owner of the universe? It’s not the size or value of the gift that’s important, but the love and spontaneity with which it’s given. Remember how Jesus was impressed by the widow’s penny in the collection basket? He openly marvelled at the rich faith attached to her small gift.
The Lord does wonders with simple offerings, given in genuine love. Big gifts presented to His name – for tax deductions or to impress others – don’t seem to capture His delicate attention. We all have many small but beautiful gifts we can offer. Who can’t afford to give a few minutes of prayer to Him each day? Some possess talents for special services like reading at the Sunday liturgy, leading songs, playing the organ, teaching Sunday schools, working as Eucharist minister, or assisting the crippled. There are hundreds of valuable voluntary services (gifts) we can offer. Our freewill donation in the collection envelope is another example of an offering to the Lord. Remember that no gift is too small or useless if given in the proper spirit.
Common bread is multiplied spiritually to feed a hungry soul. The Lord can change a simple jar of water to wine (John 2:1-11); a cup of wine to His own life-giving blood (Matthew 26:27-28; Luke 22:20). Add His blessings to little gifts (a few loaves and two fish) and there’s enough for all.
The small boy who because of his generosity gave up his lunch, now had more that he could eat. It’s a minor miracle to fill a ten year old, but Jesus does not leave His friends hungry. Let us imagine ourselves seeing the Lord sent home His newly discovered young friend with a couple baskets of leftovers. What you give away, you’ll get back many times. Jesus is never outdone in generosity.
Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are never cheap with us! You pay back a hundredfold the little we offer! Amen.
Jakarta, 24 July 2015
A Christian Pilgrim