What Can I Do?
The feast of the Passover was near. The Passover was the annual celebration that brought people from all over Israel on a three- or four-day journey to Jerusalem to celebrate the commemoration of the liberation from Egypt and the coming to the promised land. Many of these pilgrims were fascinated by Jesus and enthralled by his miracles. They joined with the local peasantry in following him into the desert and up the mountainside. At the end of the day he found a vast throng of tired and hungry people with no local concession stands of any kind to take care of their needs. Jesus said to Philip, “What shall we do?” Philip replied, “There is not enough to give everybody even a mouthful.”
Jesus answered, “Have them all sit down.” Soon the enormous crowd was sitting on the grass waiting to be fed. Available were two dried fish and five barley loaves for about thirty thousand people (including women and children). What did Jesus do? What I suggest is not the usual interpretation, but might be acceptable as a reinterpretation to suggest an even greater miracle. He took one step, and then stepped back and let God do the rest. What was that step? It was the extraordinary gesture of attempting to feed thousands of people with next to nothing. Jesus blessed the bread and fishes and handed them to the disciples to pass around. That gesture of confidence opened the hearts of the people. Those who had come from nearby had nothing to share. Others had supplies they had brought with them for their four-day stay in Jerusalem. When they saw Jesus make this extraordinary act of confidence in them, they reached into their haversacks and pulled out all that was there. As they passed around their supplies, everybody had more than was needed. Twelve baskets of food were left over.
The greatest miracle is the opening of the human heart to the generosity of God. The first step in responding to human need does not have to be a big thing, but it may change the world. Jesus with absolute confidence passed out the few crumbs that were available and let God do the rest. He touched just the right chord in people’s hearts and all the doors opened.
In every desperate situation, somebody has to take the first step, some action that the Creator can turn into a channel of grace; once it has been taken, the divine energy can flow and provide a superabundance of what is needed.
When Mother Teresa picked up a dying man in the streets of Calcutta, she captured the imagination of the world. It was a striking symbol of God’s concern for the poor. Each of us is surrounded by opportunities. We don’t have to be invited to the United Nations or go to a summit conference to save the world. Divine love suggests a first step that needs to be taken here and now. If we respond, the initial effects may not be much, but in due time the results may reach beyond our wildest expectations.
— Thomas Keating in Reawakenings
We really don’t have the option to ignore the needs of others in the Christian faith. God expects us to give to the poor, help the homeless and those less fortunate than we ourselves. But you might say, “What can *I* do? I’m just one person.” God doesn’t expect us to solve the world’s hunger, but we can help one or two…or maybe even more. And as we give what we have, God will make up the difference. Here’s a Lenten “formula” for you: “JESUS + me = enough.”
Love in Christ,
The writings of Fr. Thomas Keating are taken from Spirituality and Practice. The reflections are my own.
M.Rev. Ed Jansen is the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Benedict and Rev. Dr. Trish Gaffney is its Vicar General
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