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Five Loaves and Two Fish
Memorial of St. John Neumann
As Jesus went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.”’ When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.
Opening Prayer: Lord, thank you for bringing me to this moment of prayer. Please open my heart to listen closely to your word, that I may receive all of the graces that you wish to grant unto me during our time together.
- Mercy Comes First: The disciples must have been dismayed when they saw the large crowd waiting for Jesus on the shore. They’d just reported to Jesus all that they had done in his name, and they were hungry and exhausted. “It’s our day of rest,” they must have thought. “Surely the Master will turn the crowd away.” Instead, Jesus put aside their original plan and started ministering to the crowd. For him, mercy came before everything else, even time for much-needed rest. Sometimes, our own plans and schedules can be interrupted by people who need our assistance. Our child might start crying when we’re about to go to bed. A colleague might need a listening ear in the middle of a busy workday. We are often called to extend ourselves and minister to them, just as Our Lord did with the crowd.
- Give Them Something to Eat: Not only did the disciples lose their day of rest, but when they asked Jesus to send the people away to buy food, he responded, “You give them something to eat.” Were the disciples thinking, “Master, you can’t be serious. How are we supposed to do that?” Imagine how pleased the Lord would have been if they had turned to him and said, “We trust that you can provide for all of us, Lord. Tell us what we should do.” When we feel overwhelmed by all of the demands that we face, we can pray as did Sr. Faustina: “Jesus I trust in you.” We can then be confident he will be honored and pleased by our humble submission, and empower us to fulfill his will in that moment.
- Offering the Little That We Have: The five loaves and two fish that the disciples found were practically nothing in the face of five thousand hungry people. Just like the disciples, there will be times when we feel that we have very little, even nothing, to offer to the Lord. But as we have seen in the Gospel, God accepts whatever we can offer to him, however small or humble it may be in our own eyes, and multiplies it into something that can feed a multitude. As St. Therese of Lisieux says, even the smallest act of penance or charity can bring about an abundance of grace if done out of love for God and neighbor. How beautiful it is to offer Christ our nothingness, and to watch with wonder as he blesses it and turns it into something that gives life to others!
Conversing with Christ: Lord, I lay down all that I am and all that I have at your feet. Please multiply it, as you did with the loaves and the fish, so that I can share your grace with my brothers and sisters who are in need of love and mercy.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will offer an Our Father when I am feeling discouraged or stressed, as a reminder of your providential love for me.
For Further Reflection: The story of Elijah’s encounter with the widow at Zarephath (1 Kings 17:7-16) is a beautiful account from the Old Testament about God’s providence and how he multiplies what little we offer him to feed those who are in need.
Kai Leal is a lay member of Regnum Christi who lives in Manila, Philippines. She delights in finding God in the little things, such as a good book, a cup of milk tea, and her pet dog.