Saturday, July 28, 2012

17th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 29.07.2012

2Kings 4:42-44/ Ephesians 4:1-6/ John 6:1-15

For whatever occasion it might be, there must be this one essential and important element, and that is none other than food.

Yes, for whatever occasion it might be, the presence of food will make things look good.

For example, at weddings, besides the bride and the groom looking very good, there will also be the wedding reception where there will be at least some catered food, or better still a 10-course sumptuous dinner.

For birthday celebrations, there will at least be a sweet rich birthday cake.

Even for funeral wakes, there will be at least some simple food.

But the presence of food is not just to make the occasion look good.

Food is for our good. Because food is the first necessity of life. We eat to live (and not the other way round).

In fact, the first human activity in the Bible is eating!

In the book of Genesis, after God created man, He told him that he may eat of all the fruit trees in the garden, except the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

So even God is concerned about our need for food, and what we are eating.

So the basic question in life, and for life, is this – What do we really need? And do we have it?

That was the question that Jesus asked when He saw the crowds – “Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?”

The need was for food – bread for the people to eat.

And from the small boy’s five barley loaves and two fish, a miracle happened and the crowd of five thousand ate as much as they wanted.

Yes, it was a miracle, a sign and a wonder, all pointing to divine providence.

Yes, God cares for His people. He is concerned about their need for food and He provides.

Yes, food is good, because it points to the Lord who is good.

And hence eating must also be an act of thanksgiving. That’s why we say Grace before meals, to give thanks to God for the food.

Yes, give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for He provides us with food.

Yet, we see something strange happening in the gospel.

The people seeing this sign, this wonderful miracle that Jesus had given, were having ideas of taking Him by force and making Him king.

And so Jesus had to make a quick exit to the hills by Himself.

It was strange, because instead of giving thanks to God, the people’s need turned into greed.

Jesus had healed the sick; now He had provided bread for the hungry.

For the crowds, they could only see in Jesus the one who could give them food and health, and hence their problems in life are going to be solved.

So they wanted to make Him their king, so that He will have to provide for them always.

For the crowd, they thought that they had found the man who would take care of all their physical wants and needs.

They thought that they had found the one who would make everything right again – there will be no more hunger, no more sickness, no more problems, no more worries.

Yes, it began with a need, but it turned into greed.

The crowd was not able to see that the miracle of the multiplication of loaves was a sign of the goodness of the Lord’s providence.

When a need turns into greed, thanksgiving will be forgotten, and there will only be selfish desires and agendas.

As we come to Mass, we have come to the Eucharist which means “thanksgiving”.

So we have come here to thank God. But are we aware of what to thank God for?

Oh yes, the first thing that comes to mind is that we thank God for giving Jesus to us in Holy Communion.

But the consecrated host is a small piece of wafer that hardly satisfies us if we are really physically hungry.

Yet, as we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, we also open our eyes in thanksgiving.

And certainly, one of the things we must thank God for is the food that is so easily available in Singapore, and that we can eat as much as we want.

Do we see any miracle there? Yes it is a miracle in that for a country like Singapore which hardly produces what it consumes, we have so much of fresh food.

And the food that we consume has certainly gone through the labours of many hands and many people before it appears as delicious warm food for our enjoyment.

So right before our eyes, a miracle has happened! And when we see it as a miracle, we would certainly give thanks to God for that.

Yet at the same time, we can also simply take it for granted, that there will always be food on demand, and that we can even waste food.

If that is the case, then our need has become a greed.

We will cease to see miracles and cease to give thanks.

And then like the crowd, we would begin to put our selfish desires and agendas on demand, and expect Jesus to fulfill it.

Yet, as we come to the Eucharist, let us also realize how poor we are.

There is nothing that we can offer to the Lord which He has not given to us in the first place.

Yes, in this Eucharist, let us give thanks to the Lord for providing for our needs.

Let us also remember to always say the “Grace before meals”.

And with thankful and grateful hearts, we will be able to see the wonders and miracles that the Lord works for us always.