I’d heard the story of loaves and fishes so many times that I no longer paid much attention. Then I decided to pray with the text and see where it led me. I heard several phrases as if for the first time. With new eyes, I developed a set of challenging questions. Today, I offer these challenges to you as well:
Jesus asked. “How many loaves do you have?” Looking honestly at your own situation, what resources, insights, time, money, leadership, or gifts has God given you? What could you use in service to your hurting brothers and sisters? What resources have you been keeping for your own needs that you could find the courage to share?
“Where can anyone get enough?” In what ways do you stop yourself or create obstacles rather than offering what you have? Who are the naysayers in your life discouraging you or saying you’re wasting your time? How can you overcome these obstacles, either by yourself or with the help of wise and supportive others?
“Give them something to eat.” If you were guaranteed success, what goal would you accomplish to alleviate the suffering of others, whether locally or globally? What big or small steps can you take today to work toward accomplishing at least a bit of that goal this year? What might you need to learn, develop, or grow in order to make it happen?
As you do this, remember that “Jesus summoned the disciples.” He knew that one person in isolation can only accomplish so much. With what people, organizations, institutions, or communities can you join forces in order to make an even greater impact?
“He gave thanks…” Jesus always relied on the One who sent him. What can you do this week to spend more time in prayer, reflection, and gratitude? Then how can you use the strength and guidance you find there to take bigger steps toward making a difference?
“They picked up the fragments left over.” How can you act so that nothing goes to waste, but is offered for the continued sustenance of all? Can you participate more faithfully in recycling, composting, reusing, repairing rather than replacing, refusing to buy what is not truly necessary, promoting sustainable energy and resources, and living simply so others may simply live?
So many challenges and questions! I think this rich text is going to take longer than a week to enact. I’m going to start, though. Grounded in prayer, I plan to reduce waste in my household, stop myself before I hit “Buy now”, pack up a box of food and supplies for the food pantry, bake some goodies for my elderly neighbors, send emails and letters to my legislators, and choose an organization to which I will donate time, money, and resources. These things feel inadequate – they won’t solve the world’s problems – yet they’re a start. Just as the disciples offered a few loaves and fishes, I will offer what I have and trust God to multiply my efforts. I hope that you will, too.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.corgenius.com/.