Being Part of the Blessing
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples.
Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.
Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?”
Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.
Being Part of the Blessing
My third Liberian morning was unforgettable. The day before a small contingent had flown down the coast in ancient UN helicopters from Monrovia to Harper for the Liberian Annual Conference. Our Liberian friends welcomed us with joyful, enthusiastic embraces the evening before at the very small Harper airport, and quickly escorted us to our lodging.
Even after more than five years, Harper, which had been a resort city, had not recovered from the war and still suffered from obvious devastation. After "sleeping" in a very hot room underneath the mosquito net, I was awakened by the noise of the town's residents stirring for the day's activities. I curiously looked out my bedroom window and was startled to see dozens of people sleeping on every roof that I could see.
Below my window, in a passageway between buildings a woman prepared to cook for her family over a charcoal fire. The more I looked I was overcome with the enormity of need. And while I had already experienced deprivation in Monrovia, here in Harper I was stunned. How can we help and what will it take?
Philip's quick financial calculation grossly under-estimates the cost to feed a crowd this size. Andrew notices a small boy has more than he needs (how much could a kid carry anyway?) And how much did Andrew have? With our hands and homes full, we are repeatedly confronted with the contrast between our abundance and the need of the world.
Whether it was a miracle of multiplication or a miracle of sharing, Jesus provided more than the crowd needed. Hunger was satisfied and disciples experienced God's generosity. This eucharistic preview meal only hints of the feast prepared.
"Blessed are those who hunger for they shall be fed."
How shall we and Jesus bless the hungry?
Good and Gracious God, we are humbled by your generous care and your abundant grace. The world hungers not only for food, but also for justice and peace and hope. On this Lenten Sunday, may we see beyond our skepticism and scarcity as we share in the proclamation of miracles. The hungry are fed, the blind see, the lame walk, and the dead rise. Through and in Jesus we pray. Amen.
Rev. John Hartleroad is the Executive Assistant to Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, and lives in Springfield.