Feed them yourselves …

“Give them food yourselves.” But Lord, there are way too many people here; there is no way we can possibly feed all of them. Sound familiar! How often have we felt so overwhelmed by everything around us? How often has a task seemed insurmountable? Or we have lacked the energy to take one more step? 

In this Sunday’s reading, Jesus is preaching to so many who have come out to hear what He has to say. As night approaches the disciples share their concern and recommend that Jesus send them on their way.  To their surprise, rather than send them off, Jesus tells them to provide for the people present. No small task, as they numbered in the thousands, and that did not even take into account all the women and children present. 

If you and I had been present that day, we would be no different than the Twelve. Panic would more than likely set in as we scanned the crowd, made a mental inventory of whatever cash we had on hand, and thought to ourselves, this Man has got to be kidding me right now. Yet day in and day out, that is what Jesus is asking us to do — feed My people! 

What does this look like in our lives? What are we being asked to do? For so many of us, we meet so many individuals who have hungers that we are not aware of, and the task at hand is for us to provide the nourishment they need. What are the hungers that plague those in our families, relationships, co-workers, faith communities and the community at large? What blessings and gifts do we possess that could fill the need in others? 

Often in my ministries, I meet individuals who hunger for companionship, others who simply long for a listening ear and so many who just need to know that they are not alone in whatever trials they may be facing. These people are no different than those who were gathered that day to be fed by the Words that Jesus had to say; and who in turn were not only fed Spiritually but physically as well. We too, are given what we need, and when we take stock of what we have, it seems like just enough for us, barely enough to share with another. Yet it is through our faith and knowing that all that we need is provided for, that somehow produces miracles in our own lives, allowing us to keep on giving, even when our resources seem so little. 

Jesus has empowered us, like He empowered His disciples that day, instructing them and us “to feed them.” Our contribution to the needs of others may seem small and insignificant, and we may feel as if we have made no difference at all. Yet with only a handful of loaves and fishes, a crowd was fed and satisfied. 

We are not asked to perform miracles, we are asked to be present to others, to recognize the Christ in each and everyone we meet. To see beyond our limits and resources, and realize we are instruments working together to feed a people; to help mend wounds, and to lead them to Jesus. A Savior Who has given Himself to us as the “living Bread”; satisfying even the deepest of hungers in those who believe and let Him in. A Christ Who refuses to send us away hungry; setting a table for us and providing us with the gift of the Eucharist, and His Spirit, so that we may have the nourishment we need to continue on our journey. 

In the second reading we are reminded to “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Like the early Church, we are asked to continually hand on the faith, to constantly provide for others and to do so knowing and believing that our needs are taken care of as we take care of others. In doing so, we find that like the loaves and fishes, our blessings multiplied in ways that are too numerous to count. 

As a child I was taught that when one gives with an open heart, we receive so much more in return. So as we go forth in the upcoming days and weeks, we need to reflect on the instructions we were given, “to feed them ourselves” and how with so simple a phrase, so much is entrusted to us. As disciples of Christ, we need to see what loaves and fishes we possess, and how can it be shared to provide for others? Even if we do not have all that we need, in sharing what we have, we find that it comes back to us in ways that fills our lives more abundantly, with more than enough to spare. As in the words of St. Francis, “It is in giving that we receive.” 

Anchor columnist Rose Mary Saraiva lives in Fall River and is a parishioner of St. Michael’s Parish, and she is the Events Coordinator and Bereavement Ministry for the diocesan Office of Faith Formation. She is married with three children and two grandchildren. rsaraiva@dfrcs.com

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