Our Five Loaves and Two Fish
Jamieson is trying to show concern for his neighbour by praying for the poor man who lives down the road. But, as his son reminds him, prayer and good wishes are not always enough. Sometimes when we pray, God’s answer to us is, “But you can do that yourselves.” This is what we see in today’s gospel where the disciples are so concerned about the hungry crowd that they pray Jesus to dismiss them so that they could go and buy themselves something to eat. Jesus turns and says to them, “Hey, you give them something to eat. You can take care of that yourselves.” Only then do they remember the small guy with five loaves and two fish. Jesus blesses the five loaves and two fish and, to their surprise, that was more than enough to satisfy the enormous hunger of all the people. That is how we have the miracle of the Feeding of the Five Thousand.
Why did the disciples not think earlier of sharing their provision with the crowd? Is it that they did not care? Yes, they did care and they did wish the crowd well. But probably they were simply being realistic and practical. Let’s face it: five loaves and two fish is nothing before a hungry crowd of five thousand men, plus women and children. We see this more clearly in the gospel of John where one of the disciples, Andrew, says to Jesus: “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” (John 6:9) The action of faith to which Jesus calls his followers often goes beyond the dictates of human logic and realism.
The story of the Miraculous Feeding of the Five Thousand, like most stories in the Gospels, speaks to us today because many of us can identify very readily with the disciples. Like them we find that our care and compassion is very often limited to prayer and good wishes. No wonder wish-you-well cards have become so popular. Like the disciples we wish people well but have no intention of taking positive action to help the situation. And, again like the disciple, what prevents us from taking positive action is often the realistic assessment that the little we are able to do is not really going to make any appreciable difference.
But in the gospel we see that when we translate our care and compassion into positive action, the little we are able to do is multiplied by God’s grace in such a way that it becomes more than sufficient for the need. All that Jesus needs from us to feed the hungry crowds of the world is our “five loaves and two fish.” Why didn’t Jesus just go on and produce bread from thin air to feed the crowd? Because God needs our “five loaves and two fish” in order to perform the amazing miracle of feeding the five thousand. I will like to conclude by sharing with you this story of how a certain Indian boy tried to contribute his own “five loaves and two fish.”
Tidal waves washed thousands of starfish ashore and they were dying on the sandy beach in the hot sun. People walking on the beach crushed the fish under their feet. An Indian boy walked with more care, once in a while stooping down, picking up a starfish and throwing it back into the sea. One man who saw what he was doing challenged him. “Young man,” he said, “what do you think you are doing. With the thousands of starfish on the shore, what difference does it make throwing one or two back into the sea?” The Indian boy slowly bent down, picked one more starfish and threw it back into the sea. “For that one,” he replied, “it sure makes a lot of difference.”
As individuals, as communities and as a world, we suffer all kinds of hunger – for food, for love, for peace. God is able and willing to satisfy all our hungers. But God is waiting for men and women who believe enough to give up their lunch pack, their “five loaves and two fish,” which God needs to make the miracle possible.
Fr. Munachi E. Ezeogu, C.S.Sp.