Today’s feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is an incredible privilege for us to celebrate. That our God, who is higher than the heavens and more glorious than anything we could ever possibly imagine, would give himself to us, his creatures, so completely that we would have him as our food and drink, sustenance for body and soul, into eternity, is a mystery almost too wonderful to comprehend! Yet that is what we gather to call to mind this weekend.
In the Gospel reading today, we see just exactly how wonderful a miracle the Eucharist is. A large crowd has gathered to hang on the words of Jesus, and to see what he might do next. The disciples, however, become fearful because it is late in the day, and they know they have only a mere five loaves and two fish, and that’s never going to be enough to feed all those people. They fear, I think, that the crowd may get ugly when they realize there is nothing to eat and it’s too late to go buy anything in the surrounding area.
So they come to Jesus and tell him to cut the homily short and dismiss the crowds so they can run off and get some food. But Jesus turns it all around on them. “Give them some food yourselves,” he says. And I can just imagine the disciples freaking out! But Jesus knows where this is going and is fully aware of what he intends to do. So ignoring their lack of faith, he has them bring the meager five loaves and two fish that they do have, and he makes of it a feast that is enough, and actually more than enough, to feed the hungry crowd.
This is a great story and we’re very familiar with it, I’m sure. But you know how this goes. The commands of Jesus are never just for those who heard them the first time. Instead he says the very same thing to us: “Give them some food yourselves.” His intent is that we who have been fed superabundantly on his own Body and Blood, would go then and be Christ for others, feeding them in ways too wonderful to imagine. But how would something like that even be possible?
And that’s the reaction I think that some of us have when we are faced with the rather daunting prospect of sharing of our time, talent and treasure. But that’s exactly what Jesus intends for us to do. “Give them some food yourselves,” he says, and we are called upon to respond.
Now some of us perhaps don’t share out of selfishness. I hope that’s not true, but it does happen. And we know very well what Scripture teaches about that: we have to get over ourselves and remember who gave us what we have in the first place, and be as generous to others as God has been to us. We are taught that selfishness leads only to unhappiness in this life and eternal unrest in the life to come. We know this.
But I really think that of those who don’t really give of their time, talent and treasure, it’s because of a belief very similar to what the disciples had in the Gospel today. I think some of us don’t give of ourselves because we feel like we only have very little to give, kind of like the five loaves and two fish, and how on earth is that even going to be at all helpful in the face of such great need? Better that we send everyone on their way to fend for themselves as best they can. But Jesus didn’t accept that from the disciples and he isn’t having any of that from us either. “Give them some food yourselves.”
Because not offering something – be in an hour or two of time a week or even a month, or a very small percentage of what we earn – because we don’t think it’s enough to do anything very much is tantamount to a lack of faith. That’s what exasperated Jesus when he saw it in his disciples. And he wants us to be better than that. He wants us to see that whatever little bit we can give can become enough, and more than enough, to feed every need we can see, if we entrust it to his hands.
Jesus isn’t asking us to put an end to hunger; he’s asking us to feed one hungry person. He isn’t asking us to solve the problem of homelessness; he’s asking us to help the youth group build a house in the poverty stricken parts of Jamaica and Kentucky this summer. He isn’t asking us to single-handedly balance the parish’s budget; he’s asking us to give whatever we can and trust that others will too so that the parish can accomplish its mission. Everyone can give something: time, talent and/or treasure. I tell the folks in the nursing home that they can give of themselves just by being patient with their neighbors and being present to their friends and family. Everyone can give someone some food themselves.
Today’s Gospel miracle isn’t just a nice story that we are meant to admire from the distance of a couple of thousand years. We are meant to live it and experience it in the here and now by receiving the generous gift of God poured out most perfectly in his Body and Blood, by giving what we can give, and by trusting that God can make something truly great happen with what we have offered. Give them some food yourselves.