Our gospel today shows us the awe-inspiring power of God to use smallness to achieve greatness. There is quite a contrast between the huge size of the crowd and the small number of Apostles, twelve very ordinary men by the world’s standards, fishermen, tax-collectors, nothing special to work with. Five loaves and two fish really. It makes me think of the situation here and in most parishes. Thousands of people living in the area and here we are, a small handful of Catholics called to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world. Home is not necessarily much different with many families seeing members who have given up listening to God, given up coming to Mass on Sundays or having any kind of prayer life at all? They don’t seem to worry and they are constantly inviting the rest of the family not to worry either. What am I among so many? Just five loaves and two fish! Five thousand people, Twelve Apostles and five loaves and two fish. The Apostles were not stupid. They knew how to divide, add and subtract but only Jesus knew how to multiply but the figures were not promising. No wonder they told the Lord to send the crowd away. And no wonder we Catholics give in so easily when it comes to standing up in the world. What can we do about abortion, poverty, homelessness, materialism, secularism? No wonder so many catholic partners in a marriage give up trying to practise their faith. No wonder so many parents give up trying to pray with their children, or even take an interest in their spiritual development, when they feel that the odds are so stacked against them. We can easily develop a saviour complex, waiting for a knight in shining armour to come and solve our problems for us. We are just five loaves and two fish.
The Apostles must have been amazed when Jesus said give them something to eat yourselves. They must have thought, ‘He can’t be serious. He knows as well as we do that five loaves and two fish wouldn’t even make an starter. How can he expect US to do something for these people?’ That’s what frightened these followers of Jesus as they stood there before this gigantic problem, that he should dare suggest that they should, that they could, do something themselves. Twelve men, five little loaves, two little fish.
This brings us to the sharp point of this gospel, to the real point of what it means to be a Christian in today’s world and rely totally on Jesus power. He has brought his Apostles and all of us to the heart of the Christian challenge. Jesus points his finger at us and says, ‘Do something about it YOURSELVES.’ How frightening that is, that little word – ME! Lord, how can I do anything about changing things? How can I go and see my member of parliament about homelessness? How can I do something active in the parish? and lastly, Jesus, How can you expect ME to be a saint? See how busy I am, how untalented I am, how hard I find it to pray and to be good. I am just five loaves and two little fish. ‘Bring them here to me,’ he said … Are you listening? ‘Bring them here to me,” then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessing. And breaking the loaves he handed them to his disciples who gave them to the crowds. They all ate as much as they wanted, and they collected the scraps remaining – twelve baskets full.