All We Have
Gospel Reflection for the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Last week, I finally got to see the masterpiece that is Hamilton. I cannot remember a musical that has tugged at my heart in the way that this one did. As a writer and a narrative therapist, I was convicted to be more adamant about making writing a priority in my schedule as I recognize that it is a spiritual gift of mine. For that reason, I believe, there is a great resistance when I begin to sit down to write. Any other thing begins to get in the way since I am afraid of being inadequate on and off the page.
The company of the musical asks Alexander Hamilton, "why do you write like you're running out of time?" While others may see a simple quill and parchment, Alexander saw an opportunity for greatness. He knew that writing was a way he could impact our nation and the people in his life. His wife Eliza sings how he "built [her] palaces out of paragraphs." Our spiritual gifts are meant to be shared with others. When we use the gifts God has given us, we can make the ordinary extraordinary.
With my desire to write more, I'm grateful to have the opportunity to share weekly reflections on the Sunday readings for Blessed is She Indianapolis. This week, I am moved to find a connection between quill-and-parchment and loaves-and-fish.
When we encounter a story, we can miss the meaning without the context. One doesn't just pop into a musical after intermission. It's more helpful to go back to the beginning where the story picks up. Since the Feeding of the Five Thousand can be found in all four of the Gospels, it is told often. I am grateful that the Word is alive so that I can read it in fresh ways each and every time. Today, I noticed how this story begins with Jesus mourning the unjust death of his cousin John the Baptist by going off to a deserted place by himself. John was just months older than Jesus and Jesus was aware that his own Passion was approaching with each passing day. I believe Jesus was not looking at the scarce years ahead, but rather at the abundance of miracles and graces that He wanted to pour out while He walked the earth.
In that moment of reflection, he was approached by people looking for Him and whatever He can offer. Thousands - literally thousands - of hungry people gathered in that particular place at that particular time. His heart was moved. His disciples, on the other hand, were blocked by their blindness. They were seeing the crowds, rather than their offering. They were seeing their imperfection, rather than the perfect Savior that stood in their midst.
When we experience anxiety, we want to procrastinate, reschedule, and delegate to others. The reality of our anxious thoughts has to do with worry and our fight-or-flight response. Many times, we want to flee when we feel unworthy, undecided, or incomplete. It seems like a safer option. The disciples suggested that Jesus dismiss the crowds so they could find food somewhere else. Jesus looked at them and said, "there is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves." How would you feel if Jesus looked at you and said, "you are the one that can feed them?"
When I think of that question being posed to me, I am challenged and encouraged by Dallas Jenkins. His testimony assures me that Jesus can work with anything I give Him. I don't have to be the Savior; I just have to act in faith. Before writing my favorite TV show, "The Chosen," Dallas was astonished to learn from God in prayer that:
"It's not our job to feed the 5,000, only to provide the loaves and the fish."
When the disciples looked down at what they had to offer, they felt inadequate. They told Jesus, "this is all that we have." In Fr. Mike Schmitz homily today, he suggests that Jesus gave them a look, smiled, and clarified, "that's all you have?" while reminding them that the God-Made-Man was present. It's not until the disciples place the five loaves and two fish into the hands of Our Lord, that He broke, blessed, and multiplied the offering. It's an important point that Jesus fed the multitudes of people through the hands of the disciples. Jesus did not hand the people the food, but rather placed them back into the hands of the disciples so that they could feed those in need.
Jesus knows the joy of giving. He doesn't call us because we're qualified; He qualifies us as we are called. Every single moment of each day, He freely gives us mercy, grace, joy, life, forgiveness, love, peace, etc. He invites us to be co-creators with the Father as we trust in His work within us. The crowds came because they believed they would be fed. Not only were they fed, but they were satisfied with leftovers to take home. And, honestly, leftovers sometimes even taste better when they are discovered in the fridge the following day. Am I right? ;-) God never stops giving us good gifts, but He wants our help by participating.
The very next verse that follows this Sunday's Gospel tells us that, "He made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds." (Matthew 14:22). He feeds us physically, spiritually, and mentally so that we can be sent out to feed others. He tells us to go ahead of him to the other side. We are pilgrims on the move, we are disciples learning his ways, and we are beloved children discovering our giftedness. We are not to remain stagnant and stay on the hill.
At the end of Hamilton, after learning about the impact a person can have on the world, the audience is charged with these lyrics, "
"And I'm still not through. I ask myself, 'What would you do if you had more time?' The Lord, in his kindness, He gives me what you always wanted. He gives me more time... And when my time is up, have I done enough? Will they tell our story? Will they tell your story?...Who tells your story?"
Though God can create something out of nothing, it is important to note that the crowds were fed because the disciples brought their loaves and fish. Though they planned on those 5 loaves and 2 fish simply being a small meal, Jesus wanted to make it bigger than they expected. They had enough time and enough food for God to use to write a story that would be told thousands of years later! Since you are alive and reading this, you have enough time for God to use to write your story!
Instead of thinking about all we have with a fixed mindset, what if we thought about all we have with a growth mindset? God only knows how much time each of us has on this earth, so let's not delay uncovering our loaves and fish and offering them to Him with wholehearted faith.
How can God work miracles through what you have to offer the world?
How have you made God known, loved, and served in this one precious life of yours?
How will others tell your story?
What are your loaves and fish?
How is Jesus telling you to bring all you have to Him?