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Thanksgiving Multiplies Your Little.

“They gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten.” (John 6:13)

Last Sunday, our readings focused on the excesses of the bad shepherds and God’s judgement on those who failed woefully to care for their flock. Mark told us how Jesus, the Good Shepherd, despite His tiredness, did not send the crowd away, but sat down to feed them by teaching them at length.

Our readings today are to some extent a continuation of last Sunday's though we are reading from the Gospel of John. Jesus, the Good Shepherd not only displays the qualities of a good leader (caring), He teaches us certain important lessons about life; gratitude, positivity, thanksgiving, sharing, management of resources, humility and Holy Eucharist.

1. Care, Empathy and Compassion: Shining Qualities of a Good Leader.

In the course of this last week of the month, the top item on the news was “party defections.” If they truly cared about the common man, these politicians would simply admit their failures and resign from all public service. The good they couldn’t achieve with the broom, they wouldn’t suddenly and miraculously achieve under the umbrella or with a combination of both. Did you listen to the reasons they gave for their defections? Was any mention made about the plight of the poor hungry man in the street?

In contrast, we see that Jesus, the Good shepherd thought first about the need of the people even before any of them came to complain to Him. He saw the people were hungry and he knew that beyond their physical hunger was a longing for a deeper relationship with God. His ultimate aim was to feed them with his flesh (Holy Eucharist) and He began by feeding their hungry stomachs.

We see this same quality in Elisha in our first reading who ordered that a small quantity of food be used to feed a hundred men. Generosity is the essence of leadership. Show me a man who treats his servants (employees) like garbage, and I will show you a man who can never be a good shepherd. A good leader is one who can feel his people’s pains. He is never removed from the ordinary situation of his people and is not selfish.

2. Stop Complaining; Be Grateful for Little.

The biggest thief, they say, is the ungrateful person. Too often, we only notice our lack, we feel overwhelmed by our mountains of problems, we never have enough, we wish we had more, but we fail to realize there is so much power in the “little” which we ignore. Most of us are like Philip, we are very good at complaining. We know how to analyse things very well. Do you notice how quickly Philip intelligently calculated the cost of feeding the multitude?

Dear friends, there is only an extent to which intelligence can carry you. You need to step beyond the level of mathematics, into the realm where five (loaves) plus two (fish) is equal to two hundred (denarii worth). On the level of intelligence, you believe the future will always resemble the past and so you panic. Mere intelligence without faith keeps you forever stuck in the complain-trap.

Andrew, unlike Philip took notice of the little boy with little loaves and little fish. He brought his “little” to Jesus thinking they meant nothing, not knowing that in truth, this little was more than enough. What is your little? What do you have? Why do you feel you need more when you already have more than enough? Have you thanked God for your little? Do you realize that what Jesus did with the little loaves and fish was to offer a prayer of thanksgiving first? John tells us: “Jesus then took the loaves, and when He had given thanks, He distributed them to those who were seated” (John 6:11).
Am I only focused on the cup half full? Do I only take note of my problems? How often and how well do I give thanks? Do I know the miraculous power of thanksgiving? Elkhart Tolle once said: “If the only prayer you said is ‘Thank you’ it will be enough.”

3. Even Little Can be Broken: The Miracle of Sharing.

The miracle of the loaves is one miracle that keeps happening each time the little was broken. It was a miracle in motion. The more they broke apart, the more the loaves increased. The most common lie we tell others as well as ourselves is: “I don’t have.” We so underestimate our little to the point we begin to believe it is nothing. Until we break that little, we would never know how much it is.

Never assume, you are too small or that you can’t do much. Help one person today. Break a little from your little and watch what happens. God never asked you to end poverty in the world today. He only wants you to break a little bread for that your neighbour you saw on the street yesterday.

Recently I heard the story of a man who used to take long walk along the seashore. One morning, as he came for his walk, he noticed the sea had washed some little fishes on the sand. He knew that if the sun comes out, all those fishes would die. So he took it upon himself to catch them one by one, then threw them back into the sea. As he did this, a passer-by came and laughed at him: “Sir, do you realize there are over a million of them out there? When are you going to finish this? No matter how many you throw back, it would still mean nothing in the end.” In response, this man picked one fish and said: “To these million fishes, I may mean nothing but to this one I am holding, I mean 100%”. He picked another one and said “100%”, the next one “100%” and he continued.

As St. Paul says in today’s second reading, “walk in a manner worthy of your calling” even if you are the only one standing. Don’t follow the crowd. Your little goodness like these five loaves and two fish may appear like “nothing” but it means “everything” to five thousand hungry persons. No one is too poor or too useless in the hand of God.

4. Wastefulness is Sinful.

After everyone had eaten, Jesus said: “Gather the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost” (John 6:12). This is very instructive. It is not God’s will that anything He gives us should be lost. In other words, wasted, left unused, thrown away or destroyed reflect God's hate for wastefulness. If your dustbin is richer than some people’s freezer, you really need to think twice. Your leftovers are not to be thrown away. They belong to other hungry persons.

There is a difference between being blessed and being wasteful. For many Nigerians, the definition of wealth is when one has enough to waste and is actually wasting it. While some cannot eat three square meals a day, some spend billions just for parties that do not last beyond a few hours.

5. Every Miracle is a Sign; a Pointer to A Greater Reality.

After the feeding of the multitude, the people were about to make Jesus a King. They were expecting that, henceforth, Jesus would be feeding them, but that was not Jesus’ plan. He had not come to be a bread provider, a miracle worker or a food distributor, He had come for something greater; “that whosoever believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The food was just a sign; a symbol of the Eucharist.

Jesus would not allow them to worship Him on the basis of food, and so He withdrew from them and went into hiding. We shouldn’t seek God merely for the sake of miracles; we should seek God for His own sake.  As Jesus withdrew from them, He withdraws from us when we reduce Him to the level of bread provider yet, this is one truth that prosperity preachers will never acknowledge. Today, our churches are filled with people who have come to ask for bread and are happy to hear messages which assure them of abundant bread (more than enough to waste), whereas in truth, Jesus did not die on the cross for the sake of bread. Jesus died that we may be saved from sin. 

Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, deepen my love for you, make me a good shepherd and free me from materialism which often disguises as spirituality. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time. Year B. Bible Study: 2 Kings 4:42-44, Psalm 145:10-18, Ephesians 4:1-6, John 6:1-15).

Fr. Abu


 

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