Sunday, 2 June 2013

Hand in hand

GospelLuke 9:11-17

Jesus made the crowds welcome and talked to them about the kingdom of God; and he cured those who were in need of healing.  It was late afternoon when the Twelve came to him and said, ‘Send the people away, and they can go to the villages and farms round about to find lodging and food; for we are in a lonely place here.’ He replied, ‘Give them something to eat yourselves.’ But they said, ‘We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we are to go ourselves and buy food for all these people’ For there were about five thousand men. But he said to his disciples, ‘Get them to sit down in parties of about fifty.’ They did so and made them all sit down. Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven, and said the blessing over them; then he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute among the crowd. They all ate as much as they wanted, and when the scraps remaining were collected they filled twelve baskets.

For Luke, the feast of Corpus Christi has very little of the mysterious in it. The mystery is that we, like the disciples of the day, have trouble getting it.

The feeding of the Five Thousand is one of the miracles recorded in every Gospel; it carries a message for all of us, no matter which viewpoint it is given from.

It seems that Luke has a bit of an issue with the Twelve; the ones who are closest to Jesus and who should have, surely, known better.

The day has been spent talking with those in need, offered acts of healing, Kingdom moments of acceptance and welcome. A day you would want to last forever.

But not the Twelve; they have only just returned from their sending out and it seems that they want to have their friend to themselves again.  It isn't the place but they who are feeling 'lonely'. They want to let go of the responsibility of caring for those in need; to put these stranger's lives in other people's hands. 

Noone has complained of hunger; these people have homes, they have the choice to leave or stay. They may well feel that the 'price' of a missed meal is nothing compared to the food of life that Jesus has blessed them with. 

Jesus sees a group of people that has moved beyond the ordinary; people glad to be with each other; who have been transformed; whose spiritual hungers have been met and who don't want the moment to end. 

So he turns the tables on the apostles, just as he does with the more obvious opponents - 'you feed them'. Jesus reminds them that those you have made welcome cannot be cast aside. Hospitality is not an option; not for Abraham in his desert tent; not for a widow with a cup of flour to her name. Hospitality, Sh'khinah, is a grace and a gift that one Rabbi calls "greater than welcoming the Divine Presence '. 

The Twelve react with fear; the crowd is too big; their resources too small; the effort to do more asks too much. They still haven't spoken to the people; not even to find the generosity of a child.  'But...' they say. That demon word that rejects hope. 

I imagine this another moment when Jesus raises his eyes to heaven; it can be no less than he expects.

Let's begin with what we have. We can know ourselves inadequate but that doesn't mean we have nothing to offer. Taking the time; making an inventory allows us to acknowledge what it is we do have.

Then, the 'other'- the crowd - is given identity; placed into communities where people sit together with friends and strangers; where names and livelihoods are shared and recognised. 

 Jesus takes what the disciples offer; accepts all that it is and, through his Father's grace, multiplies it beyond all earthly possibilities. Then it is returned to them to fulfill their part; to give each and every person something to eat and not to overlook anyone because they are simply part of the crowd.

At the end, enough to put a basket of scraps into the arms of each of the Twelve; for them to feel the weight of God's overwhelming generosity if they are prepared to offer what they have rather than bemoan what they have not. And when they 'have not', to remember that God can provide.

Five thousand, plus women and children, was a lot of people for the time. We are surrounded by many more people in need today. How tempting it is to look the other way as we enter our churches and listen with assuredness to the prayers that confirm us as chosen. How often we hear the comments that people would be better back where they came from, or that other people are better suited to care for them. Is it too hard to believe that the 'someone suited' might be yourself, with a little dedication and God's grace.

Our belief tells us that Jesus could have done this himself from nothing; that all could have been fed with a word from the Word. Our faith tells us that it has to be this way. Maturity and integrity are learnt by realising we are not number one. Compassion comes from having a community to care about and the courage not to say 'but'.


1 comment:

Lynda said...

It is so true that Jesus takes what we offer and multiplies it and we have more in the end than what we gave to Jesus. This is a mystery of our life with Jesus. Thanks be to God.