In one of my holidays back in the Philippines few years ago, this was when some parts of the Philippines was hit by Typhoon Haiyan, I went with a couple of friends from Bendigo and some nurses from St John of God Hospital to an island north of Cebu. This island was badly hit by the typhoon and we, the Filipino community and Australian friends in Bendigo decided to form a foundation to help the people in this particular island.
Aside from helping them with housing materials to rebuild their houses, one other thing we did was distributing rice to the families. A big part of the money used to purchase the rice was out of the 5 cents money the parishioners gave me.
We’ve re-packed the rice into bags of 5 kilograms so that we could give them to about 200 families. That’s how much rice we could only afford to give.
So we made up a list of some 200 prospective family recipients, those who were really in desperate need.
However, when the people started arriving there were more people than what we were expecting. They were also hoping they would receive something even if they were not on the list.
That got me worried, because there more than 200 families who came. In fact, there were more than 400 families there.
But I couldn’t also bear the thought of sending them with nothing. So I decided with the team to re-pack the bags of rice into 3 kilograms each, of course without knowing how many we could come up with.
But an amazing thing happened. No, unlike the gospel we heard today, there were no leftovers. However, what was amazing was that the last bag of rice we handed out was received by the last person in the queue. In total there were about 491 families received the handout that day.
Friends, brothers and sisters, you may call it coincidence but I call it divine providence. As Albert Einstein is attributed to have said: ‘Coincidence isGod’s way of remaining anonymous.’
And God’s divine providence is one strong message for us in the gospel today. Divine providence, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: is “the dispositions by which God guides his creation toward [our ultimate] perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it. [CCC 302].
The clue here is that God always provides us and helping us achieve our ultimate goal: Holiness, happiness and at home forever in the presence of the Father.
But we can’t just sit down and wait for God to do something.
To experience God’s divine providence, we need to complement our trust and dependence with God with our cooperation and participation in God’s work.
In the gospel today Jesus would show us how we can cooperate and participated in God’s work.
First: we must do the best that we can and let God do the rest that we can’t.
As we heard in the gospel, Jesus did not just make bread out of anything around him. He could have easily done that.
No, in fact, even if as the gospel says, he already knew what to do exactly, he still asked Philip, one of his disciples: ‘Where can we buy some bread for these people?’
Andrew must have done the best that he could do for the situation because among the crowd he was able to find a small boy with few loaves and fishes and introduced him to Jesus. It must have taken a lot of persuasion from Andrew for the boy to show what he’s got to Jesus.
He also asked the disciples to ask the people to be seated on the grass. God likes a sit down meal, not come and go, not drive-thru.
Then he also asked his disciples to give the bread for the people to eat. He could have just told the people to queue in. But no, he wants his disciples to be personally involved. Later on he asked them to collect the leftovers. This means God considers that our cooperation in his work is significant and valuable. Second: to cooperate in God’s work is to give our all selflessly to God even the little that we have, and He will make us see the wonderful things he can do with us, for us and even through us. This is what the small boy did. He only had 5 barley loaves and 2 fish.
The boy was from a poor family because in Jesus’ time, the bread for the people who are well-off is made of wheat. The poor generally would have cheaper kind of bread made of barley. So that bread and fish might have been only the food for the family of this boy for a day or two.
Besides, the boy could have made a fortune out of his loaves. People were hungry of course, and if you are hungry you just eat anything, no matter how much it cost. The boy could have sold his loaves into $10 each.
But instead, he gave it all to Jesus and he had seen for himself how little things offered with love and such selflessness can become great things in the eyes of God and of others. For the boy, his 5 loaves and two fish fed thousands of people.
This assures us that when we offer our all, our everything to Jesus, we can see many wonderful things, we can see how much he can make a lot out of a little. We can see how much more he can make out of a meagre.
Third: to cooperate in God’s work is to follow Jesus faithfully and trustingly.
The gospels assures us that when we follow Jesus, when we give some of our precious time with him, when we listen to his voice, he always has abundance of grace to meet our needs. He never sees us needing something without doing something about it.
Let us see for example the Wedding at Cana. He was there. He saw the need. He did something wonderful- his first miracle- making the best wine out of water. Also when Peter and the other disciples went fishing all night but caught nothing. When Jesus arrived and when they did what He told them to do, they caught plenty. And today’s gospel tells us: Jesus saw the need. He did something about it. Many were filled and there were plenty of leftovers.
Friends, God has done so much for us. Our lifetime is not enough for us to give him proper remuneration for all the good things he has done for us.
The least that we could do to return God’s blessings is THANK GOD always and to have a grateful heart. This is the purpose of our Eucharistic celebration.
Eucharist means thanksgiving.
We thank God for his generosity. We give back to God an hour out of the 168 hours he has given us each week.
There is no amount of praying in gratitude at home can supply for the thanksgiving we give to God by attending the Mass. We can’t see its real value now, but we’ll see how valuable it really is, when we get to heaven.