Called to be two sides of a coin: step forward to share, step back to empower
When we read Sacred Scripture, one of the important steps we should do is to place ourselves in the text as one or more of the characters.
Today we can be like Jesus: empowering and pushing others to “give”; and like the Disciples: allowing ourselves to be pushed into “participating”.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges the disciples to “give them something to eat yourselves.” My first thought was: why is the Gospel not the Last Supper when Jesus started the Eucharist? Then, upon reflection, the answer is somehow obvious:
In the Eucharist, Jesus gives himself to us for strength, nourishment & empowerment. So, the logical conclusion is that we are then called to “pass It on”. As Christians, we can give ourselves: time, food, drink, laughter, guidance, teaching, forgiveness, connections.
There’s a great saying attributed to Dr Seuss: “To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.”
Often we under-rate, or under-value, our ability to contribute something important to others. We usually think in worldly terms: money, brilliant ideas, great humour, or “things”.
However, the richest men in the world often lament the fact that they have no real friends. One wealthy lady, whose name escapes me said: “I envy you Catholics, I have no one to forgive me, like you have in the Sacrament of Confession.”
I think the idea of imitating the Disciples is now clear enough: step forward to share/act. Now, the second part: imitating Jesus: Jesus created space for, and challenged, the Disciples.
This second part of today’s Gospel challenge is very important and, especially in our families today: many parents are already doing it, perhaps by accident due to the pressure of life.
Stepping back and creating space for our children to “step up” is a valuable way of empowering them, and promoting their psychological strength/wellbeing.
It’s not always easy to do, but very important. It also becomes an investment for ourselves as parents/ teachers/ leaders. However, to empower children or people also requires training; BUT that takes time, and we often say/feel “I haven’t got time!”
The investment pays off later when children, after training and experience, take pressure off us. How often do we see families suddenly turned upside down by an accident or family crisis, and the children take initiative to stand up and do things to help without even being told?
Are you a teacher? Do you empower the students with responsibilities?
Are you a coach? Do you empower older members (who are able), to teach the younger? Are you a parent? Do you ask your children for advice or ideas? Are you a manager? Do train and empower your workers with responsibilities?
Being needed “to give”, is a very important emotional need, even if we frequently feel lazy! Being the pusher for others to “step-up” is worth the pain of resentment, because tomorrow they will thank us – if not with words, then with actions and joy in their lives.
A great example of this was done by our early Oblates in Kenya: they insisted that the people contribute 50/50 for each project. Now, they are one of the most active and transformed parishes in the whole Diocese: they feel proud, they are active, they believe they “can do”.
Every Mass, as we prepare to receive Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, we are invited “to give”. Perhaps it seems like the priest is too demanding, or we feel I don’t have anything to give.
However, this opportunity “to give” is very important: if we don’t have money for the offertory, we can still commit ourselves to give to someone outside of Mass: perhaps a promise to visit a sick person; to call a lonely person; to write a letter to our parents, etc. Offer it to God in the Mass and allow Jesus Christ to transform our offering into a rich banquet for all.
So, don’t go to sleep during the offertory, it’s an under-valued, over-looked and sometimes lost opportunity to grow in self-love and psychological strength.
The bread: symbolises our offering to God: good actions/success during the week; the wine: symbolises our offering: disappointments, failures and “hurts” during the week.
Then, through the words of the priest and the action of the Holy Spirit, all our little offerings are transformed into something that will help the whole community.
I invite you to listen to Jesus Christ today, and practice this week to be like a coin: on one side we step forward and share/participate; on the other side we step-back and empower others.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI