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Our Meager Contributions
Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Religious
When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already very late. Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” He said to them in reply, “Give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Are we to buy two hundred days’ wages worth of food and give it to them to eat?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out they said, “Five loaves and two fish.” So he gave orders to have them sit down in groups on the green grass. The people took their places in rows by hundreds and by fifties. Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to Heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; he also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied. And they picked up twelve wicker baskets full of fragments and what was left of the fish. Those who ate of the loaves were five thousand men.
Opening Prayer: Jesus, I place myself before you. I bring all that I am—my hopes and my dreams, my fears and my struggles. In this time with you, help me see your loving hand at work in my life. Increase my faith so that I desire what you desire. Increase my hope so that I trust you and live my life confident in your loving care. And increase my charity so that it is apparent in all I do and say.
- Like Sheep without a Shepherd: When we look at the unhappiness and tension that is so very present in society, we feel a tug at our hearts. We are moved with pity because we see people who are like sheep without a shepherd. In their wandering, they don’t find the spiritual and human nourishment they need, and they are often hurt physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Malnourished and in pain, they are sad, lonely, and angry. Yet, they resist the Shepherd’s guidance and care because they don’t know his voice. They may be afraid of him or see him as a danger to their freedom and happiness. The tug on our hearts is even stronger when we look within our own families and friendships and see those who no longer live as a member of Christ’s flock.
- Give Them Some Food Yourselves: In this parable, Jesus began to teach those who came to him, but he asked his disciples to provide them with food. Did Jesus need the disciples’ help to provide for the physical needs of the crowd? Of course not. However, Our Lord chooses to work through human instruments. Just as he asked his disciples to feed the crowd, he asks us to feed those in need today through the corporal and spiritual acts of mercy. When we see a need, it may be easier to tell someone else about it than it is to try to address it ourselves; however, Jesus asks each of us to actively care for others according to our personal call and mission. As St. John Paul II wrote, “lay people as well are personally called by the Lord, from whom they receive a mission on behalf of the Church and the world” (Christifideles Laici: On the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World, n. 2). St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, whose feast day we celebrate today, was a wife and mother who converted to Catholicism. She was widowed and founded the religious congregation of the Sisters of Charity. Further, she is considered the mother of the parochial school system in the U.S. She saw a need—a big need; with trust in God’s loving provision, she had the courage to address this need.
- They Ate and Were Satisfied: When Jesus told the disciples to feed the people, they protested that they didn’t have what was necessary. Jesus didn’t accept that answer. He asked the disciples what resources they did have and told them, “Go and see.” How often it is that we, too, feel inadequate in the face of the needs around us. Problems may seem too big for us to address. We may see a lack of resources or feel unprepared, and we may experience a sense of hopelessness. However, just as Jesus blessed and multiplied the gifts the disciples brought to him, he will bless those efforts that he calls us to make in his name. We need to take stock of what we do have to offer (our gifts and talents) and to what we feel called (what causes a particular tug on our hearts). When we bring all this to Jesus, he will show us how to distribute what we have to offer to meet the real needs around us.
Conversing with Christ: My Lord, there are so many needs all around me—in my family, friends, and society. You have called me to help build the Kingdom by loving my neighbor in real, tangible ways, but it seems that I have so little to offer. Help me keep my eyes on you, on what you can do through me, rather than what I am capable of or prepared for. Help me see the gifts and talents you have given me to be used in the mission to which you call me. I want to see as you see and love as you love, my Lord. I want to be your faithful instrument in the reality of today’s world. Sacred Heart of Jesus, burning furnace of love, I place my trust in you.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will spend five minutes in prayer for those who seem to be lost sheep in society, that they will hear the Shepherd’s voice and return to his loving care.
For Further Reflection:
The USCCB offers practical applications for each of the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy: The Spiritual Works of Mercy and The Corporal Works of Mercy. Reflect on what St. John Paul II has to say about personal mission and vocation in Christifideles Laici: “To Discover and Live One’s Vocation and Mission” (n. 58):
Janet McLaughlin and her husband, Chris, live on a mountain in rural northeastern Oregon. She puts her Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies to work as she shares the beauty and importance of the lay vocation in her writing, speaking, and teaching on spiritual topics.