by Fr. Tommy Lane
Can you imagine how the disciples must have felt when Jesus gave the instruction for the people to sit down in the Gospel today? (John 6:10) Did they feel like saying, “Lord healing the sick is one thing but feeding five thousand men and several thousand women and children with just five loaves and two fish is asking for the impossible?” Did they think that if Jesus failed to feed the crowds they would all look like fools? We can see that they obviously had worries because Andrew said to Jesus, “what is five loaves and two fish between so many?” (John 6:9) Did they feel like saying to Jesus, “Jesus, don’t be stupid.” The disciples had one vision of the situation and Jesus had a different vision of the situation. The disciples were putting a limit on what to expect, but Jesus had no limits. There is a tension between the expectation of the disciples and the expectation of Jesus. The disciples’ vision was small but the vision of Jesus was limitless.
It hasn’t changed much since then. Our vision and expectations are often small but Jesus’ vision and expectations for us are without limits. And if we try to expand our vision to be more like the vision of Jesus the world says to us, “You are stupid.” The world says “you are stupid to want to become a priest, you are stupid to want to become a nun, you are stupid to have one more child, you are stupid to join a prayer group, you are stupid to spend so much time in prayer.” And the world is right according to its own standards and vision, but the vision and standards of the western world are very often not the vision of Jesus. According to the mind of the world, following Jesus is irrational. So to follow Jesus in our world now you have to lose something; maybe you have to lose some respect for yourself to follow Jesus now. When Mary said “Yes” to the angel Gabriel she lost respect for herself; in the eyes of the world she was a loser, but in fact she became the winner. If we decide not to lose something for Jesus and follow the ways of the world, then we will really end up losers in the end.
In our Gospel Jesus is not the only one with a big vision. The other person with a big vision is the small boy who had the loaves and fish. The thinking of the world now is, “What is in it for me?” or “What will I get out of it?” or “The more I receive the more I will be blessed.” That is the attitude which is destroying our western society. If the small boy had that attitude and did not give his five loaves and two fish to Jesus there would have been no miracle. But because of his generosity a great miracle took place. That little boy shows us that when we give we receive. The vision of the world is often small and narrow but the vision of Jesus is without limits.
In the very early days after Pentecost there was a cripple begging at one of the entrances to the Temple in Jerusalem (Acts 3). When he saw Peter and John going into the Temple he begged from them. Peter and John said, “Look at us.” The cripple was then obviously hoping to get some money from them. Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!” (Acts 3:6) Then Peter took him by the hand and helped him up. Instantly his feet and ankles became firm, and he jumped up and praised God. That beggar had a small vision for himself but Peter had a wonderful vision of where his life should be. In a sense we could say that the cripple was asking for pennies but God was offering him millions. Are you putting limits on yourself while God has a more wonderful vision for you?
As Paul preached the Gospel he encountered a similar problem. People had a narrow vision of Paul and his ministry but Paul’s vision was wide. This is what he wrote in 2 Cor 6:8-10,
“taken for imposters and yet we are genuine…said to be dying and yet we are here alive, scourged but not executed; in pain yet always full of joy; poor and making many people rich; having nothing and yet owning everything.”
We can ask ourselves, “What is our vision of ourselves and the world?” Do we take our vision of ourselves from the world or from Jesus? God help us if we take our vision of ourselves from the world. The only way to see yourself is to see yourself as Jesus sees you.
The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish was preparing for an even greater miracle where Jesus would expand our vision even more. The multiplication of the loaves and fish was preparing for the miracle of the Eucharist. To human eyes in the Eucharist one sees bread and wine but with the eyes of faith we see the Body and Blood of Jesus. Again according to the world it is irrational and stupid to believe in transubstantiation, that the bread really changes into the body of Jesus and the wine really changes into the blood of Jesus. But following Jesus does not entail looking at Jesus with the vision of the world. Following Jesus means looking at Jesus with the eyes of faith, with the faith of Mary who accepted the impossible from the angel Gabriel and responded, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) We do not allow our vision of ourselves to be tainted and contaminated by the world but we take our vision of ourselves and our possibilities from Jesus.
More homilies for the Seventeenth Sunday Year B
Second Reading: Bear with one another charitably, love your children
Related Homilies: Miracle at Juarez: Give to Jesus and he gives to us
on expanding our vision: Enlightened to our Calling and Destiny
on expanding our vision: The Glorious Future Awaiting Us