Two beautiful readings today, especially from Isaiah; “Buy corn without money, and eat, and, at no cost, wine and milk”. And then we hear about Jesus feeding the 5000, again without cost. Now, we know that these readings are working at two levels. On the one hand they’re referring to spiritual gifts whereby food and drink is the love, generosity, and life giving Word of God. On the other hand, they’re pointing to food and drink as bodily sustenance, a free gift from God as fruits of the earth or, as in our Gospel reading, a true miracle.
Fr Mark has talked about the collaboration between God and his people before, where Jesus could have just created the food the disciples were to hand out to the people. But instead, he chose to take what they had, five loaves and two fish, working with them to bring a slice of the Kingdom here on earth. The pivotal words here are the words of Jesus; “give them something to eat yourselves”. Looking at a crowd of 5000 (not forgetting the women and children), the disciples must have thought that Jesus had gone mad! But the truth is that we might think the very same today. And the reason for that is that as Christians, we too are called to feed the multitude, both spiritually and literally.
When we’re reading this Isaiah passage about free food and drink, I wonder how many of us find this utopian vision naive. A vision where people are no longer hungry, a vision where humankind is at one and at peace. Because the world teaches us that this is not possible. The world teaches us that division and competition is vital for the economy and for personal growth. But this is simply not true.
On social media, people are sharing posts about stopping foreign aid and spending it on our own country instead. Not only would this be a death sentence to those in the kind of need that we can scarcely imagine in this country, but no-one has asked questions like; where does the money come from to make missiles and arms? Where does the money come from for furlough payments? Where does the Brexit money come from? The world has the resources to banish hunger from the face of the earth, but there is no will to do it.
Taking all of this into account, with the added complication that the world also seems to be doing its best to prevent spiritual nourishment as well, as Christians called to feed the world, we might well despair that Jesus has indeed gone mad…that he’s asking too much of us.
But we know that his yoke is easy, that his burden is light, and that love, gentleness and generosity is his hallmark. We, both as individuals and as a Christian community, can rise to the challenge by imitating our Lord. We can’t feed the whole world, we know that, but we can feed those around us. I’m going to get obvious here…foodbanks. They are everywhere, including in our churches, because they’re desperately needed. Surely we can buy an extra couple of items a week to help feed the 5000. If we are able to, even a couple of pounds a month would help aid agencies reach those that we can’t. For those with an hour a month to give, look into the work of the SVP…just an hour of time a month could literally change somebody’s world. And if we do it because we love Christ, then we will also be reaching out to others in his name every time we give a tin of soup, a pound coin or an hour of our time. These are simple ways that we can help to provide Jesus with our five loaves and two fish, enabling him to take them, bless them, multiply them and who knows what else he can work with our simple and humble offering