Can see that a spirit of generosity…leads us into amazing new opportunities, encounters and friendships?
Let us begin our reflection today by understanding the context of Jesus’ ministry today: “When Jesus received the news of John the Baptist’s death…”
Our Lord and Saviour was mourning the loss of his cousin. He goes away to find some time alone, but is interrupted: instead of getting angry or running away or feeling sorry for himself, Jesus gives himself to the people and disciples.
This generosity should encourage us at this difficult moment in our world. How do you feel when mourning a relative or friend who has died? Do you feel like helping others or hiding?
Jesus teaches us, by this act of generosity, that when we focus on ourselves for too long, we might sink into depression: but when we give ourselves in service to others, we will find a new joy, renewed energy and purpose in life.
Although we believe that OUR death is a birth to new life, it seems that the death of others is also a gateway to renewed life here and now. Most adults, I’m sure, have mixed feelings and challenges when we mourn the loss of loved ones: Is death the end? Am I ready to meet God?
When we allow death to dominate our thinking in a fearful way, we will feel depressed! But when we allow it to spur in us a renewed sense of life: death leads us to deeper joy.
What was Jesus doing in solitude before the people came and pestered Him? I suggest that Jesus was reflecting on the life of John the Baptist and being strengthened by his courage.
We have a choice: draw strength/guidance from deceased loved ones, or just get angry/bitter. Just as John the Baptist gave himself to the people to spread a message of preparation, So, Jesus now gives Himself to us to teach us how to love.
The feeding of the 5,000 men, plus women and children, is wonderful in a worldly sense: helping so many people. But that is not the core teaching Jesus wants us to receive:
It is the little boy, with barely enough for himself, who teaches us the most important thing: give them something to eat yourselves?
Too often we think: “what can I do?” , or “My little bit won’t make any difference!”, or “I also have to eat!”. In a worldly sense, those are valid responses.
However, we are Christians in the world, not worldly people. Trusting in God, we can do much more than we think. Our small steps act as a tool for God to inspire others to walk with us.
As I prepare this, I’m thinking of a great young man living in the slums of Nairobi who was touched by the suffering of many single mums and kids living in terrible conditions. One woman has a shelter (not a real house), over the top of a sewerage pipe that has a hole it: imagine the smells that surround the small family all day! I think I would die.
Despite the fact that this young man has nothing, he started a fund raiser on the internet asking people to help. It was not going well, so I decided to help him spread the word and there was a nice response of several people; one donor said: in coronavirus lockdown I’ve reduced my entertainment costs, so let me use it to help.
Our young man started feeding the five thousand: the joy on the faces of the families being helped was visible and touching. The pride and joy of the young man was powerful. Other youth came to assist him in distribution: food, but also small rent payments so they would not be kicked out of the places they call home. These other youth went home feeling rich.
The actions of our young man put me to shame. He has nothing yet fed many. How much more do I have? On a regular basis, each of us are faced with challenges where people are in need: It’s often a disturbing or annoying feeling that we have: “oh, God, here we go again.”
I hope today, we can develop a new feeling: “I wonder what God is going to do with me when I try to help this person?” Can we begin to see that a spirit of generosity is a spirit that leads us into amazing new opportunities, encounters and friendships?
I wish you well as you be the “little boy” that helped Jesus work a miracle so many years ago. May your “adventures” lead you into exciting new horizons and a deeper joy in life.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI