The Gospel for May 29th, 2016: The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Today’s gospel is the Lukan account of the feeding of the five thousand, the only miracle found in all four gospels. From five loaves and two fish, Jesus provides enough food to feed all five thousand disciples present with enough for some left over. There is no logical explanation for how He might have done this other than He is God. No problem is too big for Him. Simply put, Jesus provides.
At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious from the Hotels.com commercials by pointing this out, let me add to it another obvious fact that makes it so difficult for me to accept divine provision in my life. I am a sinner. In particular, I am sinfully proud. Unfortunately, I love this sin. I love to think I am smart enough to figure out solutions to problems on my own. I love to strategize complicated action plans and feel the tingling anticipation of imagining the success of the plans, including the honor and glory that will inevitably be bestowed on me when my genius is revealed. Of course, I hate the reality of the failure of those plans. I hate witnessing those plans unravel due to factors I neither can understand nor control. Yet I risk relearning the lesson of my own limitations time and time again because the fantasy of my genius is so intoxicating. I return to it with stubborn pride rather than trusting in God’s providence.
So entrenched is this habit, I can imagine myself in that isolated field in the presence of Jesus, turning down the miraculous meal of fish and bread just so I could preserve my own ego. Despite my hunger, I would say, “None for me, thanks. I ate a late lunch.” Or perhaps, I would have been so smart as to bring a snack to tide me over. Yes, I stuffed a few olives in my pocket before leaving, so I will make a paltry, mushy meal of those rather than a meal prepared by my Savior. Or worse yet, maybe I would have left in search of food that is hours away, just so I did not have to humble myself to accept the charity of Jesus and His apostles.
It sounds ludicrous, but I do this all the time. Pride has a firm hold on my life. However, as I read this gospel I am struck by how simple it is to trust in God’s providence. The outcome was and is perfect: “They all ate and were satisfied” (17). Those who trusted were fed and at peace. They didn’t have to understand how the provision occurred or come up with a better plan to achieve it. They just sat down and waited patiently for God’s will to be done.
This of course is the beauty of the 23rd Psalm. We are the sheep and Jesus is the shepherd. He will lead us to all we need if we simply follow. Still, it takes humility to follow. It is the same humility Mary demonstrates in the Magnificat (Luke 1: 46-55), when she calls herself “his handmaid.” It is the humility we speak of in the Our Father, when we pray that “Thy will be done.” And it is the humility of Jesus at Gethsemane when in agony He had the fortitude to resign Himself to His mission of death on a cross, saying to His Father, “[I]f it is not possible for this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done” (Matthew 26: 42). So in reflecting on Jesus’s miracle of feeding the five thousand, I pray that for the humility and wisdom to accept God’s providence in all aspects of my life. And I pray for those who share this deadly affliction. May we all return in humility to God’s plan for our lives and His people.