In our Gospel passage today, Jesus puts the Apostles to the test: you give them something to eat (Mt 14:16), He tells them, before a crowd of more than five thousand. Jesus challenges His disciples to trust in Him, and to use the small amount of food they have to feed the multitude.
Sometime around the 1980’s, many sceptics began to dismiss the miracles of multiplication that Jesus did. It was just a ‘miracle’ of sharing, they said; when people saw how the disciples were ready to share the little they had, others began to share their lunches too.
Well, if it were just a nice story about people being kind to one another, then it really has no place in the Bible! Because the Bible isn’t about ‘nice’, it’s about Christ! And Christ is God among us (cf. Mt 1:13), and all things are possible for God (cf. Mt 19:26).
Just over twenty years ago, my parents decided to move to the Edmonton area, and so we came to look for a house. We weren’t sure about our real needs or in which neighbourhood we wanted to live, so my parents were looking to rent. But our search for a decent rental was quite disappointing — even depressing (!) —, and we soon realised we had to buy. But putting together an unplanned down payment was going need a miracle.
Looking for some direction and some hope, early one morning my Dad turned to the Bible, as he often does, and began to read and pray. He came upon this passage of the multiplication of the loaves and was really struck by God’s overwhelming generosity in providing for His people. So after breakfast and sharing his prayers with Mom, Dad called us all to the table for a family prayer meeting. He read us the passage and shared with us how he felt God was asking us to give Him our ‘loaves and fishes’ so that God could multiply them.
So Dad emptied his pockets and put money on the table as a symbol of his loaves, and spontaneously we all followed suit, offering whatever we had. On an inspiration Dad also decided to include the family car, so he added the keys to the little pile. And with this we prayed, offering to God our loaves a fishes, asking Him to multiply them so that we might be able to buy a house.
That afternoon we went to visit a house. When we got there, the elderly man who owned it said he couldn’t let us in because the realtor, who had the keys, was in Toronto. As it turns out, the man was a developer, and so as not to waste our trip to St. Albert he insisted we come to see his new homes, even though they were far beyond our finances. And so we went.
The houses were beautiful, just the size we needed, and they were in a great location. It became clear to us that God had brought us here, and we began to feel that we had found the house the Lord wanted to give us. But we still didn’t know how the finances were going to work out. However, we trusted that God wouldn’t disappoint.
So Mom and Dad went to the bank, but the developer — who had great compassion on my parents with five teens — had already made arrangements with the manager. He was vouching for the down payment so we didn’t have to put one down, and since his daughter was a lawyer, she drafted up the papers, and there were almost no closing costs either. We moved into our new home in late August, a week before school began. But because the paperwork was slow, we ended up living in the house payment-free for two months, which gave us enough money to buy a second car, as my parents were teaching in opposite ends of the city. The Lord is gracious and merciful… His compassion is over all that He has made (Ps 145:8, 9)… He opens His hands to give us our food in due season (cf. Ps 145:16, 15).
Just like the loaves and fishes, God multiplied our little pile of change and keys. The Lord does indeed work miracles! And we need to ask and expect them from Him. But we first need to trust in Him, and we need to offer ourselves to Him along with our loaves and fishes, whatever these might be, however little, however few.
We must never think that it’s not enough, because God isn’t concerned with quantity; He’s concerned about us. Notice how in the Gospel the multiplication took place because Jesus had compassion for them (Mt 14:14). Whatever we might offer to God is grossly insufficient, and Jesus knows that better than we do, but He nonetheless says, Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters (Is 55:1). Come, because He will make it sufficient; He will multiply our offering, our love, so that we’ll even have lots left over. We need only trust in Him, love Him, and give ourselves over to Him. God wants to bless us, and not just in material ways! God wants to fill us with His spiritual gifts, His grace — and in abundance! He wants to make us holy and perfect in His sight (cf. 1 Thes 5:23); will we allow Him to do so? Will we offer ourselves to Him so that He might multiply in us His grace? Amen.