August 1, 2020 at St. Peter the Apostle in Naples, FL
Isaiah 55, 1-3 + Psalm 145 + Roman 8, 35, 37-39 + Matthew 14, 13-21
Anyone who is tuned in to Biblical Literature would know before this story ends what is going to happen. What is being counted does not matter. The number is the clue. Five and Two equals Seven, that number in the bible means perfection or fulfillment. It signals completion. Whether it is seven days in creation, or forgiving seventy times seven, the message is clear. There is enough. So, when the disciples tell Jesus what they have: five loaves and two fish, Jesus knows that they have enough. After a prayer, he tells them to give away what they have because Jesus knows that it is enough.
This is the most repeated story in all the Gospels. It is retold twice in Matthew, twice in Mark, once in Luke, and once in John’s Gospel. It was and still is important to the church, but not once does it say in all those versions that Jesus multiplied the bread. What it does say is that he took, blessed, broke, and gave to the disciples. It was the disciples who shared with the crowd. Then, they all ate and were satisfied. Take, Bless, Break, Share. What is important here is those verbs. What Matthew reveals to us is what happens when we do what Jesus asks. He said: Give me what you have, and they did what he asked. After he prayed what was probably a prayer of thanksgiving for what they had, he returned the gifts to the disciples and told them to feed the people.
This is then a story of what happens when disciples do what Jesus does and what Jesus asks. The disciples saw a need, but they expected the people to go away and fend for themselves, while they had something to eat. Like many in this world today, they probably thought, “We took care of ourselves. They should do the same.” There is a lot of that thinking around these days. Nonetheless, the loving generosity of God always being revealed in Jesus will not allow those people to be hungry. The miracle here is not about loaves and fish or some divine action taken by Jesus to suddenly produce more food. This is a miracle of generosity. It is the kind of generosity that is more than giving away the extra change in our pocket or something that we won’t miss because we already have several. It is the kind of generosity that springs from knowing and believing that everything we have comes from God. Everything. All of this is framed for us in the context of the Holy Eucharist. Take, Bless, Break, Share are words describing the action of Jesus at the Last Supper carried over into every celebration of the Eucharist. This is the story of what happens when disciples do what Jesus asks and what Jesus does, and he asked us to more than celebrate Mass.
What Matthew reveals for us in Jesus Christ is the very image of a God of endless generosity. This is a God who gave his only son, not an extra one or a spare. This is a God who not only fed, but made certain that each one got as much as they wanted, and even so there were left overs. This is why I call this a miracle of generosity, because generosity is not always about giving things. More often it is about giving one’s self which is exactly what happens at this altar. Christ Jesus gives us himself. Yet, nothing could have happened that day in the wilderness had it not been for what the disciples had and were willing to give. A hungry world still waits to be fed, and we to whom enough has been given, must bring it back to God and then bless, brake, and share. What we hear today is the same command and the same words that those disciples heard: “Give them some food yourselves.” They looked at that crowd and no doubt felt overwhelmed by so many in the face of so little, but they did what he asked and ended with more than they could have imaged; and everyone not only had enough, they were more than satisfied.