Give them yourselves to eat
The disciples are in manager mode. After a long day teaching an unexpected crowd they tell Jesus “send the crowd away so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are in a deserted place.” St. Luke has Jesus challenge them with a very short ambiguous statement, here are some possible literal English translations:
Give them, you, something to eat.
Give them yourselves to eat.
Give them you to eat.
To this the managerial disciples respond that they only have five loaves and two fish “unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” But this scene is a revelation that Jesus and the disciples are to meet the kind of hunger that store bought food cannot satisfy. That hunger takes many forms, but it can only be satisfied through an experience of acceptance, care and concern by others that enables you to believe in the acceptance, care and concern of God. This then gives you the possibility of practicing this towards yourself. As you embody this new disposition towards yourself, deep hungers within you are met. Slowly your wilderness turns to paradise. Naturally you will begin to share this acceptance, care and concern for others, but you won’t feel diminished. Actually, you will start to notice the empty baskets within you filling with compassion.
Perhaps this is what it means to “give them yourselves” to eat. As we practice radical compassion for ourselves we become like bread that has been dipped into the finest olive oil. But instead of being diminished through consumption it multiplies within us and through us as it is shared with others.
Jesus arranged the people in groups of fifties. Perhaps that represents the kind of social size that will permit people to find others that they can trust to accept them, care for their suffering and show concern for their hopes and sorrows. The more such communities foster the spirit of divine compassion they become food for the life of the world.
In scripture bread was called the staff of life for from it came the strength to complete our work. Wine in scripture is what gave joy to the heart, –unless you have too much, then get a headache! Strength and joy, these two are the signs we are being nourished by God’s compassion.
The heart of someone with a vocation to priesthood or religious life becomes a basket that is constantly being filled with leftover love that is not diminished as it is shared with others. The more we open to divine love it multiplies within us, in this way we, like Jesus, become “something to eat.”
By Mark Blom, OMI – Vocations Director – OMI Lacombe Canada
Feel free to contact Fr. Mark for advice about discernment and vocation direction. He can meet with you by phone to conduct a short vocation assessment to help you find your way. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for an appointment.