Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
In the Gospel reading for today, we heard about a great and startling miracle – the multiplication of the loaves and fish to feed thousands of people.
Following the news of the death of John the Baptist, our Lord Jesus Christ had retreated to a desert place, seeking solitude to pray. But the multitudes followed Him into this desert place, and He attended to them there. As the evening approached, the disciples looked out upon the multitudes and became concerned and upset about the logistics of caring for and feeding so many. The disciples wanted to send the people away to the villages so they could get something to eat.
Our Lord instead commanded His disciples to gather up the food available there and to feed the people. But the disciples assessed what was available and said it couldn’t be done… all they had were two fishes and five loaves of bread… they could not possibly fulfill the task that the Lord has asked of them.
There was no way that they could feed the thousands of people with such a meager collection of food. But the Lord tells them to bring their meager resources to Him. He blesses and fills with His grace the small and insufficient resources brought before Him and He then sends the disciples out to do the job He had asked of them, to feed the multitudes. The compassion and overflowing grace of God is apparent, and the disciples end up with twelve baskets of leftovers after the crowd has had their fill!
What a demonstration of the mercy and compassion of our Lord! And what a tremendous miracle was performed!
Let us ask… what is a miracle? Metropolitan Anthony of Sorouzh offers some valuable reflections upon this question. He writes: ‘What is a miracle? Is it a moment when God overpowers His own creation, breaks its own laws, destroys something which He has willed Himself? That would be an act of magic, an act of overpowering whatever is unwilling to obey, of overpowering what is weak in comparison to Him Who is strong.
A miracle is something completely different; a miracle is a moment when harmony destroyed by human sin is restored. It may be a moment, it may be the beginning of a whole life: a harmony between God and man, a harmony between the created world and its Creator. It is a restoration of what should always be; not a miracle in the sense of something unheard of, unnatural, perhaps contrary to the nature of things, but rather a moment when God enters into His creation and is received. And because He is received, He can act freely.’
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, that which we call miraculous is simply a glimpse into the proper harmony of things which God intended for creation and mankind. We break that harmony by our sinfulness, by our stubborn unwillingness to live in harmony with God. When those barriers are broken, as we see so often in the lives of saints, then that harmony is restored and things which we call miraculous become everyday occurrences.
That harmony between ourselves and God is attained through humility, through purity of heart, through acknowledgement of, and surrender to, and synergy with the mercy and love of God.
Christ invites us to bring our cares, our desires, our insufficiencies to God and allow Him to bless and provide the grace and means for their accomplishment. We can hardly conceive of the compassion and love which God extends to us. We are too often quick to allow the demon of despair to whisper to us that our situation is impossible. Let us remember and let us believe in the words of our Lord Who declares: ‘With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’
Metropolitan Anthony continues his reflections on the feeding of the five thousand noting that: ‘Christ had compassion, compassion which means that He looked at these people who were in need, who could do nothing to alleviate it, and He felt a pain in His Divine Heart, that these people, whose life should be fulfilment, abundance, a glorious joy — that these people should be in obvious need. This time it was hunger, another time it is illness, another time it is sin, another time it is death — it may be anything. But God's love may be either joy, exulting, glorious joy or crucified, sacrificial pain. And when all this meets then a mysterious harmony is established between the Divine sorrow and the human need, between human helplessness and the power of God, the love of God that expresses itself in all ways, great and small.
Let us therefore learn to be pure enough in heart, pure enough in mind to be able to turn to God with our need without hiding our face; or if we feel unworthy of coming up to Him, let us kneel at His feet and say, Lord — I am unworthy!
Let us learn this creative helplessness that consists in surrendering all hope of human victory for the sake of the certainty that God can do what we cannot.
Let us be helpless in the sense of being transparent, and supple, and listening with all our being, and presenting our need to God — our need of eternal life, but also our needs that are human and frail: the need of support, the need of consolation, the need for mercy. And the response of God will always be the same: If you can believe, however little — everything is possible.