Give them food!
Readings: 2 Kings 4, 42-44; Ps 145, 10.11.15.16.17-18; Eph 4,1-6; Jn 6, 1-15
Today, the 25th July 2021 the Holy Father Pope Francis invites us to celebrate the first World Day of prayer for for Grandparents and the Elderly. The word of God for us on the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time fits exactly in a time when many are looking for food. The current lockdown due to the Covid-19 wave has driven many vulnerable people into deplorable food scarsity. Just as it was in the time of Elisha and in Jesus’ time, the invitation is: „Give the people food so that nobody may go hungry!“ This is only possible is we all renounce our selfishness and be ready to share.
God’s superabundance and human calculation
Confronted by the invitation to give everybody what to eat, we ought to recognize that God, out of His providence, has given us what is enough for all. It is only selfish calculation that drives human beings to hoard goods for themselves at the detriment of others. The servant of Elisha asks: „How am I to set this before a hundred men?“ Humanly speaking, the twenty loaves of barley were not enough. Yet the Lord, through Elisha, says: They shall eat and have some left.“ This invites us to trust the providence of God and not to be easily terrified by the apparent scarsity of resources.
A young boy had barley loaves to feed multitudes
The Evangelist John presents the multiplication of bread with quite many characters. Philip see a flat impossibilitiy of feeding the people even though he had already seen Jesus perform various miraculous cures and had heard the authority in Jesus’ teaching. Why didn’t he remember the foundational event of his jewish community where Jahweh gave His people food in the wilderness? He doesn’t believe. Andrew, instead points to the presence of a boy who had five loaves of barley loaves and two fish. But still he points out what little food is apparent, and wonders what good can come of that. Those barley loaves (low-quality bread for the poor) is what Jesus needs to feed the multitudes. In our own midst there are the „little ones“ whose little intiatives can bring about a fundamental change. They only need recognition and support. Unfortunately they are very often criticized, if not silenced! What Jesus does evokes a future event at the institution of the Eucharist. He makes people recline just as they reclined at table for the Passover meal (Mt 26, 20). He took the loaves and gave thanks before distributing them. This is the core of the eucharistic prayer: „He took bread. He gave thanks. He broke it. He gave it.“ Whereas our attention might be drawn to the multiplied loaves, we ought not to miss the indication to the bread that feeds us. This is Jesus Himself. Those he feeds in the Eucharist have the task of feeding others, not only with material bread but with whatever serves to guarantee a dignified life.
Lifestyle worthy of the christian calling
St. Paul invites us to live a life worthy of our call to be followers of Christ. As Christians we are called to practice concrete solidarity with the less privileged in our midst. Some of us shall say: „Our contribution is minimal.“ Exactly that is what is needed to save a life. We just need to put our pride aside and be courageous to stand up for what is right. We ought to put justice before our personal comfort and gain. We ought to put ourselves at the service of life. In this we join the very many little ones in the whole world who are ready to share their resources, so that noboday has to go hungry. Our lifestyle is challenged: Don’t throw away food whereas millions are dying of hunger! Live simply (lead a simple lifestyle), so that others may simply live (may have the minimum they need for survival). The invitation today may not be „to give people food“ only, but in the face of the world-wide covid-19 pandemic we should say: „Give them the vaccines!“ Nations with the vaccines should not hoard them for themselves. Instead, they should share them with the poorer countries. The poorer countries who receive any help should also be in position to set right priorities. Don’t buy vehicles instead of vaccines! Nobody should exploit this situation to enrich oneself. The multitudes who were fed by Jesus wanted to take Him by force and make Him king. After performing such a great miracle, Jesus is capable of withdrawing to the hills by Himself. Our charity should not have strings attached! It shouldn’t serve self-enhancement to build our profiles for future political ambitions.
As we celebrate the World Day of Prayer for the Grandparents and the Elderly, let us thank the Lord for the precious gift that the grandparents and elderly are. With their experience they are witnesses of a journey made with God. They are bearers of wisdom which the young generation needs for the journey ahead of them. Sometimes they have information which the young ones can not find neither in libraries nor on google. May we never leave them in their loneliness, but instead endeavour to create an environment that fosters a fruitful „inter-generational dialogue“. Houses or homes for the elderly are good, but their value is better appreciated surrounded by their dear ones in the family. May we never fall into the temptation of measuring their value by what they produce!