The small miracle of sharing

This past weekend my wife and I were privileged to accompany Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., on a visit to Nantucket. He celebrated the Mass and visited with parishioners after the 5 p.m. Saturday Mass in town and the 8:45 Sunday morning Mass in the chapel in ’Sconset. On both occasions the bishop preached on John’s well-known Gospel account of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. 

I was struck, however, by the bishop’s reference to what he called “the small miracle of sharing.” In John’s account the ability to feed 5,000 people is preceded by St. Andrew telling Jesus about a young boy who possesses five loaves of bread and two fish. The bishop focused on the fact that this young boy readily shared what he had. If he had acted in a self-centered manner and kept the food for himself the larger miracle of feeding the masses would not be possible.

It occurred to me that we often overlook the small miracles of sharing that allow for so much of the greater good to happen. We are most often in the position of the young boy, asked to contribute in some small way that, in faith, we hope leads to a larger accomplishment.

Over the remainder of the weekend I was mindful of relatively small acts of either kindness or generosity that I could imagine as part of God’s plan for building the Kingdom. A very generous couple hosted the bishop for dinner that night. What may come from the many conversations that ensued? On Cape Cod the night before, two people talked to me about the need to establish a men’s shelter to address homelessness and reintegration from prison.  Their concern for a vulnerable and at risk population was admirable and I wonder how many lives they will impact if their efforts succeed? Over time will they feed 5,000? More? It will have begun because of a small decision to care and act.

How many small miracles of sharing are we witness to each day? In our schools, the extra attention a teacher pays to a student may yield dividends for years to come. Can the greatest scientific or artistic advances be traced back to the encouragement of a mentor who may have faded from view but left an indelible impression? 

When a priest or deacon is called to a hospital bed in the middle of the night, does that act of selfless love engender an inspirational response from the patient or their loved ones?

Does the simple act of a parent teaching their children to care for the needs of others start a process that can lead to a deeper examination of societal iniquities? If we teach our young boys and young girls to willingly give their food, or their time, or some of their allowances, can that portend a larger miracle through Divine intervention?

Those small miracles of sharing are all around us. It may be a teacher or coach or peer. They may have offered extra help, encouragement or simply a kindness. They all qualify as small miracles of sharing if we are attuned to them. 

In the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken” he concludes:

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

If the small step to the road less taken does indeed make all the difference, then the small acts of kindness and compassion, the small miracles that we witness or practice can do wondrous things. I think this is why the institutions of the Church are so important. Every year we graduate hundreds of young people who have learned that their Catholicism compels them to act on behalf of their brothers and sisters, the family of God. Whether it is economic and environmental justice, as Pope Francis has recently emphasized, or local issues around poverty, we are teaching our children and adults to look upon each circumstance as an occasion to care, to love and to contribute. 

Feeding 5,000 on five loaves and two fish is awesome. Teaching generations to care and having the heart to try is miraculous. 

Anchor columnist James Campbell is director of the diocesan Development Office/Catholic Charities Appeal/FACE.

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