Meditation for Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Luke 9:10-17. Originally posted in ICON Jly 7, 2017)
Metropolitan Yuhanon Mor Meletius
One of the greatest blessings God has given to humans is that we can look at things positively. Humans can judge and see the positive side of everything that comes along. But, unfortunately many a time we do not use this God given ability. When Jesus asked His disciples to feed the multitude that was following Him for few days, the disciples told Him, “We have no more but five loaves and two fishes” (Luke 9:13). This verse is part of the reading of the Gospel passage for the fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Luke 9: 10-17). Of course, under normal human situation, no one can ever think of feeding that many people with as little as five loaves and two fishes. That is what the disciples told Jesus. But, unfortunately, they forgot to analyse the situation. That was not the first time they were with Him. They have already seen great works of God through Jesus. The very fact that the people followed Jesus was because they saw great miracles done by Him.
God found everything He created “good”. But this goodness is not a quality but essence. This is in the core of everything and every situation. But that core must be brought out, recognized and enhanced by humans though their life and work in this world. This is because God had given humans the privilege to be His co-creators. God brought everything He created before humans to be named (Gen. 2:18-23). Naming is perfecting act through exploring and bringing out the self of things and events. To name, one has to look, beyond external features and nature, in to the core. This is what is called a ‘positive attitude’. When we look at a dancing cobra with its hood up, we might think that it was going to bite us. Well, it was only expressing its instinct to tell us that, it is not comfortable with our presence, so “go away that I may go in peace”. It doesn’t want us to be an intruder into its territory. But on our part, we either get aggressive and kill it or get scared and run away. If the second happens, the snake will also go away. Although not intentionally we were acting positively otherwise negatively for no good reason. Each situation calls us to look at it positively and name it as such.
Here in this incident, the people were of course hungry and Jesus did not want them to go home starving to get own food as suggested by the disciples. So, He asked His disciples to feed them. Jesus very well knew that there were quite a large number of people. He was not an unrealistic person. The disciples had to see the context and analyse all aspects such as, that there were too many people; that Jesus was quite aware of the fact that it was not possible to feed them with what the disciples may have had with them. So, certainly it was clear that Jesus had His own plans to feed the people. Judging the situation, the disciples should have been able to see this. This is what first human did when God brought all that He created before human to be named. They read the mind of God and named them, and all those names came out to be well on their part (Gen. 2:19). This is what was expected of the disciples. But they, the representatives of the estranged human, could not read the mind of God just as first human, Adam, who failed in reading the mind of God in matter of the fruit of the tree. This was primarily because they failed to seek the mind of God and secondly failed to see the folly in the external suggestion that, “the fruit was delightful to the eyes”, and on the contrary decided without really studying the purpose of the fruit that it was “good to eat” (Gen. 3:6). The first human did not go in to the core of the subject, the disciples also did not go in to the core of the command of Jesus but judged it with external suggestion that says, ‘anyone who wants to feed these many people should have so much food at hand’. This is exactly what we also do most of the time. Judging by the outward suggestions and on general principles, we think we need to work really hard, forgetting all kinds of things that keeps us human, to make a better life and be successful in this world. So, we run up and down disregarding the fine features of life like love, justice, values, relationships etc. We say, ‘oh life is short so have to run fast and without minding may of the things around us’. We, in our haste, forget our Lord and our relationship with Him, we forget to live in happiness and at peace. We judge our lives with worldly parameters and get so worried that we cannot make it in normal case. Jesus at the close of His life in this world, presented us before His Father and said, “Father I do not pray that they may be taken away from the world, rather protect them from evil” (John 17:15). I would paraphrase ‘evil’ in this verse as ‘negative’. So, I may read that passage as, “God I do not pray that they be taken away from the world, rather protect them from being negative”. God did not look at darkness in the beginning in a negative way. He looked at it as a resource to create light and to make it a situation where human can rest (Gen. 1:3). God did not see the boundary-less chaotic water negatively rather took it as a resource to create land and a place where water lives can live (Gen. 1:9). We see dark side of the world and get upset, depressed and disheartened. We say, ‘what can I do with these limited resources’: ‘what my child can do with this education’, ‘what I can do with this little income’, ‘how can I live with this huge debt in the bank’, ‘how can I be successful if I fail in the exam’, ‘how can I have a life if my dear ones pass away’????? Well, this is the moment we are called to present those few loaves and fishes, I mean our limitations, before our Lord. He can multiply them and make them enough and more for the situation at hand.
This passage is presented by the Church to be meditated during the week after Pentecost. At Pentecost, the Sprit of God came and helped the disciples see things as God saw them. They no more saw the people around them as a threat to their existence as Christ followers, but as a challenge before them to bring them to their fold. Jesus never saw death negatively, but as an essential prerequisite for resurrection and for fullness of life. He wanted His disciples to see things positively and situations as opportunities, no matter how hostile they may look; people around them as potential disciples of the Lord no matter how hostile they may seem outward. The Spirit that was given to us during the time of our baptism and that is being constantly renewed on the day of the feast of Pentecost and on other liturgical and sacramental occasions, will certainly open our eyes up and help us see things positively and be a “multitude feeding” disciples in the vineyard of the Lord. May God help us all along in that manner.