What will you bring to Mass today? I’ll tell you what I'm bringing: my insecurities, my doubts, my fears; my frustrations from work this week. I also brought my hopes and dreams and my joys of this week. I brought them so I can offer them up, place them here at the foot of the altar, so that Christ can multiply them, just as he multiplied the loaves and the fishes.
Today’s story of the feeding of the multitudes is the only miracle that appears in all four Gospels. In fact, in Mark and Matthew it appears twice in each. So that tells us that it’s important. In John the miracle happens just before the Passover and it takes place in the same chapter where later Jesus is going to declare, “I am the bread of life.”
Jesus can very well feed the crowds all by himself.
But he doesn’t. He asks for our help. In the Gospel of John. He asks Philip, “How do you think we should feed these people?”
In Luke's version, Jesus tells the disciples, “You, feed them.”
Jesus wants us to cooperate with him. Jesus wants us to participate in his saving action. Our Church teaches that everything we receive from God is a gift. We call it Grace. In fact, Grace is the gift of God’s very Life. God gives us Grace; but we have to cooperate with that Grace in order to receive it fully. And we see that in today’s Gospel.
And I can think of a few responses we can have.
We can be like the disciples, very prudent, suggesting that the crowds be dismissed so they can get food. That's very responsible. We can also argue: "Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people."
Where they a little snarky when they said that? In the Gospel of John Philip says (I paraphrase): "Are you crazy? We can’t feed all these people! It’s like a gazillion people and we’d need like a million dollars to feed them!”
Sometimes we too despair. We get caught in the “this is impossible; this is terrible!”? In the hopelessness of the situation?
Or we can be like the little boy. Luke doesn't say that it was a little boy (we don't know where the loaves and fish come from), but in other versions it's a little boy. This little boy offers what he has no matter what. It’s way too much food for a little boy: 5 loaves and 2 fish – but not enough to feed 5000 people – or more – it may have been 5000 men – that’s not counting the women and children! There may have been 20,000 people there. But no matter – here’s my bread and my fish.
How often do we get stuck in the “I’m not good enough?” I’m not old enough; I’m not educated enough; I’m not a priest or a deacon; I’m not a theologian; I’m an immigrant; I don’t speak good English?
We don’t think we’re good enough and so we don’t offer anything.
And how often do we say what we have is not enough? It’s only two fish and five loaves of bread. “I only have a can of tuna and some macaroni and cheese and that’s food that goes to the food bank…
” We get stuck in the insecurity, “what I have is not good enough,”
and we don’t offer anything.
All I have are my fears and my doubts, my insecurities and my frustrations. And I think it’s not good enough. My dreams and hopes, my happiness, my gifts and talents – not enough. But I can bring it so I can offer it, place it at the foot of the altar so that Christ can transform it as he transforms the bread and the wine into his body, blood, soul and divinity and multiply it.
My question to you today is, what are you bringing to your relationship with God?
What are you bringing to your prayer life? What are you bringing to Mass every Sunday? Spend time during the week thinking about those things that you want to bring to Mass: Your worries. Are you worried about a doctor’s appointment? Are you worried about paying your bills? Did you go to a wedding this week? Bring the joys of the couple, bring your thanksgiving and put it in the basket.
Come a bit earlier for Mass and spend some time thinking about what you have to offer. Who are you offering this Mass for? That’s how we prepare for Mass.
The offertory is not just about collecting money and it’s not just about bringing the bread and the wine, but it’s so that we bring all our offerings of the week and throw them in the basket. We lay it at the foot of the altar, at the foot of the Cross, so that Christ can transform it and multiply it. It may not be a lot – may be a can of tuna and a box of macaroni and cheese or 5 loaves and 2 fish; may be your frustration or changes at work or your concern about paying a bill. It may be a great joy or a great fear.
Bring it all.
Christ will transform it and multiply it so the world can be fed.
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: firstname.lastname@example.org