17th Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 26th 2015.
2 Kgs 4:42-44; Eph 4:1-6; Jn 6:1-15
Real miracles from real gratitude
In her book, “True Confessions,” the author Linda Schubert writes of an interesting conversion she had with the Lord Jesus. In one of her numerous seminars on prayer, healing, and deliverance, she experienced being overwhelmed with the great needs that many attendees of her seminars have for emotional, physical and spiritual healing. Faced with her littleness in the face of these huge needs and pains in others, she cried out to Jesus, “The needs are so great and I am so little.” She heard the Lord whisper in her heart: “Little in My hands is much.” She responded, “Lord, help me to get into your hands.” Linda’s response to Jesus’s words was more than, “Thank you for the little that I have” but she was ready and willing to put it all back in God’s hands by making use of the little that she had just as He would want it to be used. This attitude will see her ministry of healing grow despite her own littleness.
Miracles of providence, healing and transformation abound in our lives when we become truly grateful souls on three levels. On the level of thought, we acknowledge all things, little or big, as coming from God as a gift to us. On the level of words, we express our gratitude by words of thanks. On the level of action, we place these gifts back in God’s hands by using them the way that He would want us to make use of them and not as we like to use them.
How did the miracle of the loaves take place in today’s Gospel passage? When did the five loaves and two fishes transform to the point that it could feed five thousand people? If we knew the exact details of this event, it would no longer be a miracle. Right? But all we know is that the miracle began with Jesus giving thanks for the very little that He had in His hands: “Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining.” Jesus is the truly grateful soul per excellence, grateful in thought, word and action. He saw all things as being given to Him by His Father, “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hands.”(Jn 3:35) In His gratitude to the Father, He did only what He saw His Father doing, “The Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing; for whatever He does, that the Son does likewise.”(Jn 5:19)
The disciples regarded the bread and fish as being too small to make any difference in the large crowd, “What good are these for so many?” Indeed, in the hands of the God-Man, little is much. Jesus used the little in His hands according to the Father’s plan and thus worked a miracle. The fragments left over are part of God’s gifts and thus cannot be wasted, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” Likewise, the miracle itself is a gift from the Father and Jesus would not cash on this for personal glory, “Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry Him off to make Him king, He withdrew again to the mountain alone.” In addition to being completely dependent on the Father, Jesus will not make use of anything for His own personal interest. “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me.”(Jn 8:54)
In the First Reading, Elisha’s servant is blessed with enough wheat for 20 barley loaves at the time of severe famine in the region. A sincere or heartfelt “Lord, Thank you” was not enough for this servant. In his authentic gratitude, he comes to Elisha in obedience to the command to offer the first fruits of the soil to the Lord at the sanctuary. Through the mouth of the Prophet Elisha he learns exactly how God wants him to make use of the gifts he has received and wishes to offer back to God, “Give it to the people to eat. For thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and there will be some left over.’” The miracle occurs when he acts on the words of the prophet and uses the little that he had as God instructs him to.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are so aware and conscious of the little that we have and are in this world. But are we also aware of the power of God to work miracles in our lives if we become truly grateful souls, souls whose gratitude to God extends to using God’s gifts according to His divine plan? No matter how small or inconsequential our gifts may be, God has a plan for that gift that we have received from Him. We place it back in His hands when we are grateful enough to use them all as He wishes and not as we will want to make use of them. It is only in His hands, when we place all we have and all we are directly under the guidance of His holy will, that our little is indeed much. In our hands, it will always remain small.
How authentic is our gratitude to God? Are we on the level of thought alone, merely acknowledging that all that we are and have come from God? Are we stuck on the level of words, merely expressing our gratitude by words? Or is our gratitude expressed in reflective action, a readiness and willingness to use these gifts according to the divine plan? Unless we are grateful on all three levels, we hinder ourselves from witnessing the power of God to work miracles in our lives.
Are we grateful enough for every second of our lives here on earth that we seek to do the will of God above all things at each moment? Are we grateful for the gift of life in all its stages that we are willing to defend and support the most vulnerable in our midst like the unborn? Are we grateful enough for our bodies that we use them to glorify God rather than indulge in endless pleasure seeking? Are we grateful enough for our relatives and friends that we strive to relate with them as God would have us do? In an age when the divinely bestowed differences and complementarity between the sexes are ignored and the Bruce Jenners of our times are hailed as heroes for transforming from one sex into another, are we grateful enough for our being created by God as male and female that we seek to serve Him with our masculinity and femininity irrespective of our feelings and desires? Are we grateful enough for our Catholic faith that we share it zealously rather than live with easy compromises? Unless our gratitude to God goes beyond words, we lack that essential gratitude to experience divine omnipotence.
In the very first Eucharist, Jesus took a piece of bread into His hands, looked up to His Heavenly Father, gave thanks to the Father for that piece of bread, broke it and then gave it to His disciples to eat. The first Eucharistic miracle began by Jesus’ act of thanksgiving by which He placed Himself in the hands of the Father. We can receive His Eucharistic presence simply because Jesus placed Himself in the Father’s hand in an act of gratitude. Likewise, in every Eucharist, “in the Offertory we give thanks to the Creator for bread and wine, gifts of the Creator” (CCC #1333) and we receive the greatest miracle – the risen God-Man in our midst. In addition, the Eucharist allows us to enter into Christ Jesus’ own perfect gratitude to the Father and to share in His grateful stance before the Father. The Eucharist is indeed thanksgiving because it is both a participation in Christ’s own thanksgiving as well as a school where truly grateful hearts are formed in the image of Christ’s own heart.
How are we going to show our gratitude to Jesus for this gift of Himself in the Eucharist? Words are not enough and theories about gratitude are useless. Having received this gift, we must look up to the Father too, discern His will for us and use all things according to His plan. By so doing, we will be placing all back in His hands. And because little is always much in His hands, we can then dare to hope and expect a real miracle.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!