01 August 2014


Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 14:13-21 (Is 55:1-3 / Ps 145 / Rom 8:35, 37-39)

It is not good to preach with an empty stomach.  But it is worse to preach to an empty stomach. The intensity and sincerity of our desire to provide for the spiritual nourishment of others should never make us insensitive and neglectful of their material hunger. Never is evangelization an alibi for starvation. Rather, real nutrition is in evangelization. When we evangelize others, we need to feed both their bodies and their souls. In the Gospel today, Jesus emphasizes this guiding principle: after feeding the people with the Word of God, He serves them food from the five loves and two fish of His disciples.

Our Gospel today is entitled "The Miraculous Feeding of the Five Thousand".  But the miracle in this episode is not the work of Jesus alone. Both Jesus and His disciples miraculously feed the multitude. The miracle begins when the disciples refuse to hide what they can otherwise selfishly keep for their own consumption. The miracle happens when they open their hearts to welcome in the hungry crowd even as they open their basket to feed them. And when Jesus blesses the five loaves and two fish, He blesses their hearts that show compassion and made their love multiply the little they first thought they have.

We, too, can do miracles. Miracles begin with an act of love. Miracles are deeds of love. Miracles happen when the love for the self becomes the self that loves. We make miracles when we truly love. The greater our love is the greater the miracle is. The more loving we are the more we become miracles ourselves.

It is love that can simultaneously feed the body and the soul. On the one hand, despite sincere efforts to nourish the soul of countless people still they starve because the love preached perhaps begs for more and better concrete acts of charity. On the other hand, despite feeding programs here and there still many are hungry because the attention to the care of their souls is probably not enough. It is not feeding that satisfies the hungers of people. It is love! When we love the rest follows: the Word of God is preached, hearts are blest, baskets are opened, compassion works, food is multiplied, miracles happen, and all is satisfied.

Evangelizing means loving like Jesus. Feeding the hungry is loving like Jesus. Miracles happen when we really love like Jesus.

When we look around us, we see how starvation has come close to home. The miserable sight of children enduring the night with empty stomachs should disturb us and make us rise from our dining tables to feed them. The distressing documentaries on television that carry the stories of the increasing number of our countrymen scavenging from our leftovers in restaurants for their daily meal should question us all who call our selves “a Christian nation in the Far East”. The hungry face before us is the face of God. If only we recognize Him we would readily and generously feed Him.  It is love that makes us see Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor. For, Victor Hugo said, "To love another person is to see the face of God."

In the Gospel today, Jesus challenges us even as He confronts His disciples with the truth that they seem to be hiding from Him: "There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves." Open baskets only follow open hearts. Unless hearts are open, baskets will remain close (even locked). "But all we have," the disciples confess their hording, "are five loaves and two fish". Aha, so they have something! But they worry that sharing may end up with them having nothing of the little they have. "Bring them here to me," Jesus tells not only them but you and I as well.

In life, let us not count what we do not have but what we have. Let us not declare that we have none when we actually have little, for little is not none. Please let us not say that we do not have when, in truth, we do have but we want to keep it from the needy. Disciples of Jesus that we are, let us bring to Him whatever we have - great or small, plenty or little. Let Him bless them and use them to make miracles real in the world.

It is not good to preach with an empty stomach. But it is worse to preach to an empty stomach. After all, Jesus often likens the Kingdom of God into a wedding banquet where all is not only invited but is lavishly fed as well.

A poor and old woman lives next to a rich and old man. Poor though she is, the woman has great faith. She prays everyday and, probably because she is hard of hearing, she prays rather loudly. But her rich neighbor is a man of no faith at all. Understandably, he does not pray. He only has tricks for his poor neighbor.

One day, having no food, the poor old woman prays, asking God for even just a piece of bread. The rich and old man, overhearing the prayer, decides to make fun of the poor and old woman's faith in God's providence. He takes a loaf of bread, places it at her front door, rings the bell, and hurries back to his apartment. When the woman opens her door, she is overjoyed to find the loaf of bread.

"Praise the Lord!," she cries out. "Thank You, Jesus, for answering my prayer."

"You fool!" grins the faithless man at her. "It was not your God who gave you that bread. It was I."

"Oh," replied the woman, "You then are God's answer to my prayer!"

Be a miracle. Be God's answer to someone's prayer.


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