Saturday, February 14, 2009

Where Are We Supposed To Get Food To Feed Them?

When we last saw Adam and Eve, in yesterday’s First Reading, they were hiding behind the trees in the garden God had made for them, ashamed that He might see them, because they were naked.

Today, God calls out to him:

Where are you?
I heard you in the garden, and I was scared, since I was naked, so I hid myself.

How did you find out you were naked? You must have eaten the fruit of that tree, the one I told you not to touch.
It’s not my fault! The woman you put here with me gave me fruit from that tree, so I ate it.

Then the LORD God turns to the woman:

Why did you do that?
It’s not my fault! The serpent tricked me, and so I ate the fruit.

Then the LORD God said: See! The man has become like us. He knows what is good and what is evil. So the LORD God banished the man and his wife from the garden.

In today’s Gospel, another great crowd of people had come to listen to Jesus. As the sun began to set, Jesus spoke to his disciples:

This crowd has been with us for three days, and they’ve had nothing to eat. If I send them away, some of them will collapse from hunger before they get home.
Where are we supposed to get food to feed them all? This deserted place is a long way from the town, where we could at least buy some bread.

Do you have any bread with you?
Yes, we have seven loaves. But that’s not enough to feed this crowd!

Jesus took the seven loaves, said a prayer, broke the bread and gave each of the disciples some of it to distribute to the crowd. They also had few fish, which He also blessed and asked them to share. Everyone there ate their fill, and when they were satisfied, the disciples picked up seven baskets of left over bread, after four thousand people had been fed.


Earlier today, I read a comment about this gospel by Nick Fagnant, who is the Student Life Director for the Encuentro Dominicano program at Creighton, a Catholic University in Omaha, Nebraska. I don’t know whether he’s related to the family of the same name who were my parishioners a few years ago.

Nick comments that, if we look at the First Reading and the Gospel, God seems to contradict himself. On the one hand, it seems to have been the LORD’s intention to punish all of humanity because of the actions of two people: to banish us from paradise, and force us to struggle to meet our most basic needs. On the other hand, Jesus is moved to compassion for the crowd who came to listen to him, and miraculously feeds four thousand hungry people with seven loaves of bread and a few fresh fish.

Nick did not have an answer for these questions, and neither do I. I am fortunate enough to live in a place where someone prepares three meals a day for me and the four other retired priests who live here. Every day except Saturday and Sunday, someone else makes our beds and vacuums the carpets in our bedrooms and sitting rooms. There is a chapel here where we say Mass, and we can go there at any hour of the day or night to spend some time along with the LORD. But downtown, there are half a dozen shelters each with room for forty to sixty homeless folks, sleeping on two and three tiered bunk beds, and there are still several hundred people sleeping in the parks every night, because there is no room for them in the shelters.


The world today is hungry, not only for bread but hungry for love; hungry to be wanted, to be loved. They’re hungry to feel the presence of Christ.

People are hungry for the Word of God that will give peace, that will give unity, that will give joy. But you cannot give what you don’t have. That is why it is necessary to deepen your life of prayer. Allow Jesus to take you, pray with you and through you, and then you will be a real, true contemplative in the heart of the world.

We are called to love the world. God loved world so much that he gave us Jesus. Today, he loves the world so much that he gives you and he gives me to be his love, his compassion, his presence.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

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