18 Sunday A - Multiplication



5 Sundays: Summary

1) Preparing the soil: Meek and humble of heart. The word humility comes from the Latin, humus which means earth. Be earthy, natural, without put on. That's the sort of soil.
2) Types of soil: Defiant (rocky/stony), distracted (thorny) and defeated (birds picking or people trampling). Ignatius of Loyola had a defiant and distracted heart in the beginning but never defeated.
3) Wheat and weeds: The good and the bad in our lives, in the world. Peace and war, violence and charity..... There will be a day of judgment, reconciliation... Ignatius spent much time in discernment - the lady or the Lord for whom I am going to be heroic. 10 months at the cave by the river at Manresa eight miles from the place of his conversation at the Benedictine monastery in Monserrat.
4) Treasure in the field:  So much hidden in each of us. In every seed. Being discovered. But there is a selling my ways and plans, styles and attitudes to get that. Not what was lost and but with what is left in us. But we must discern good and bad choices like selecting the fish. Don't take anything that comes on our way. Ignatius finally with his companions finds the treasure in the Society of Jesus at Montmartre in France - they founded the society on August 15, 1534.
5) Multiplication: This is the completion of the fruit of the earth. From humility, from surrender, with what was left and not about lost out there. Thanksgiving means giving. When the fruits are brought to the Lord for sharing,, when we sit together at the banquet of the Lord, when we relax with the Lord with our families -- away from our work and activities. A good vacation becomes our vocation. Relax with the Lord can be a good prayer. Those who are labored and burdened, come to me. Jesuits spread to 112 countries in 6 continents, now numbering over 17,000.
Whatever we place in God's hands, he is going to multiply. "You give them" has the answer to the worlds problems. That's how God has always worked. Bring them to me. Take, bless, break, and give.....Principle of life. In every child birth, a woman takes, blesses, breaks her body and give to the world a beautiful gift many times greater than what she received...."I held many things in my hand, but I lost them all. Whatever I have placed in the Lord's hands, I still possess them" (MLK)

-Tony Kayala, c.s.c.
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From the Connections:

Taking the five loaves and two fish, and looking up to heaven, Jesus said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.
Matthew 14: 13-21
 
What’s for dinner?
It’s a miracle you can re-create every evening in your own home.
First, everyone makes the time to be there.  Work, meetings, sports and school projects are put on hold.  Dinner time is sacred.
Next, everybody helps.  The younger kids set the table, the older kids learn to cook.  And during the week, everyone contributes to the tasks of meal planning and shopping.
When you sit down together, remember those who are away or who are no longer at your table.  Make a grandmother’s special soup and allow the children to savor her loving care much the way Mom and Dad did.  Give thanks for the neighbor whose garden provided the tomatoes in the salad.
And begin and end with gratitude.  Start with grace — with everyone participating.  Keep a candle lit on your table as a sign of God’s loving presence in your midst.  Literally break bread together — one person breaks off a small piece and passes the bread to the next person.
Meals are more than fueling stops for the body — meals enable families to experience the love and consolation that makes a household a family.  Family members who withdraw to different corners of the house to watch TV or work over a microwave meal sacrifice much more than nutrition.
The sharing of food is often the shape that love takes.

[Adapted from the essay “What’s for dinner?  A spoonful of cooperation, a pinch of memories, and a dash of prayer create family peace” by Mary Lynn Hendrickson, U.S. Catholic, April 2008.]

What happened in that “deserted place” when Jesus fed the crowds can happen in our own homes — not that we can take a few of fish sticks and a couple of dinner rolls and feed five thousand unexpected guests, but we can reconnect as a family over the gifts of God’s good earth.  More astounding than Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand is Jesus’ transforming them into a community, a community who becomes one in their need, one in the bread they share, one in the love of Christ who has brought them together.  Jesus empowers every one of us to perform our own miracle by imitating his three actions in today’s Gospel: to “bless” and give thanks for what God has given to us; to “break” from our blessings (including our time and energy) in order to contribute to the good of all; to share — to both give and receive — to realize the joys of loving family and community.  
 
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Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration
Today we recall one of the great miracles of Jesus: a large group came to hear him and he saw their need and fed them with five loaves and two fish. We might look back and think that that is just a story, yet here we are today being fed by him at his table. We might look back and think that things like that do not happen, yet here are we who still look to him for the bread of life to give us strength and hope in our lives. We might look back and think of the miracles as just fables, yet we too gather today to listen to his teaching as the word of life. 
Michel DeVerteuil
General Comments
 
This Sunday’s passage is in two sections:
- Verses 13 and 14 tell a story which typifies Jesus’ ministry. We can read it from two perspectives:
a) Jesus as experienced by the people. He was the kind of leader people feel drawn to; they “go after him” even if they have to go “on foot” and even when he and his disciples are saddened by bad news and “withdraw by boat to a lonely place where they can be by themselves”.
b) Jesus as he is in himself:
- sensitive so that when he hears that a great man has been martyred, he feels the need to withdraw to a lonely place;
- selfless so that even in a time of personal distress he finds the resources to reach out to those in need; he lets them bring out the best in himself.
The story invites us to celebrate leaders like Jesus. It also calls us to repentance so that we can be more like him, as individuals and as a Church. – The story of Jesus’ miraculous feeding (verses 15 to 21) is unique in that it is told five times in the gospels – twice in St Matthew (here and in 15:32-38) and once in each of the other gospels. Clearly, the early Christians considered the incident crucial for understanding the person and ministry of Jesus.  Each of the five accounts has details which are special to it and bring out its particular emphases. We take the account before us as the Word of God addressed to us here and now; we don’t refer to the other accounts.
We can read the story as a teaching on the Eucharist (and this is how it is often read in the church) but it is better to read it in a wider sense, as a general teaching on Jesus’ mission in the world. Reading the story in this way reminds us that the Eucharist is itself a living lesson (“sacrament”) of Jesus’ mission – and ours too. This is a point I developed in my booklet, The Eucharist as Word (published in 2001 by Veritas).
It is significant that the story does not lay emphasis on the miracle itself but on the gestures which precede and follow it – another indication that the miracle of the feeding is a “sign”, a  lesson about life that we are called to celebrate and imitate. Being followers of Jesus does not mean having to “work miracles” as he did. Though we may occasionally do extraordinary things, we must always see them as exceptional. What we are called to do always is to adopt his attitudes, expressed by his gestures in today’s story.
We can identify three stages in the story.
- A preliminary stage in verses 15 to 17. These verses present a striking contrast between Jesus’ approach and that of his disciples:
- the disciples want Jesus to “send the people away”; he says, “give them something to eat yourselves”;
- they speak disparagingly of their situation, “all we have is five loaves and two fish”; he welcomes what they have – “bring them  here to me”.
As always, we are invited to recognize that we have lived both stories. Jesus is our story of grace which we celebrate; the disciples are our story of sin for which we repent.
- The miracle itself in verses 18 and 19. Here the focus is on Jesus alone:
- he orders the people to sit down on the grass; he is in control and does things in an  orderly way;
- he takes the five loaves and two fish, raises his eyes to heaven and says the blessing; he is humble and reverent in the presence of the Giver of all gifts;
- he breaks the loaves and hands them to his disciples who give them to the crowd; he shares the food and shares his authority.
- The fruit of the miracle in verse 20. Two points are made, applicable both to the Eucharist and to Jesus’ entire mission:
- “They ate as much as they wanted” reminds us that the Eucharist “contains in itself all sweetness,”
according to an ancient antiphon; it also reminds us that in “Jesus communities”  the needs of all are looked after.
- “They collected the scraps remaining, twelve baskets full” brings out two points:
- the food is abundant, true of the Eucharist and of Jesus’ ministry in general;
- the people receive it with reverence, also true of the Eucharist (the church has seen the veneration of the Real Presence as the fulfillment of this text) and of Jesus’ ministry. In “Jesus communities” people appreciate what they receive, and do not waste it (contrast with the fast food industry). 
Prayer Reflection
Lord, the reason why there is not sufficient food in the world today
is that people are not concerned for one another.
When the prosperous see others in need they respond like the disciples.
They want to send them away and tell them to go to the villages
to buy themselves some food,
although they know perfectly well that in fact
there is nothing in the villages for them to buy.
Send us leaders like Jesus
who will tell us that there is no need for the crowds to go away,
since we can give them something to eat ourselves.
Even if all we have with us is five loaves and two fish, we can bring them to you
and raise our eyes to heaven in thanksgiving for what we have.
All will eat as much as they want,
and in fact there will be basketfuls of scraps remaining.
Lord, we thank you for our (Caribbean) housewives.
When visitors come to their homes and evening comes,
they don’t send them away to buy themselves some food.
They tell their children, “Let us give them something to eat ourselves.”
They take whatever five loaves and two fish they have,
raise their eyes to heaven and say the blessing,
and then share with their guests.
A strange thing happens – all eat as much as they want.
But these women don’t waste anything;
they carefully collect whatever scraps remain.
Lord, we pastors tend to look on our ministry as an eight-to-four job.
When we have ministered to people and healed their sick we feel we have done enough.
Like the disciples of Jesus, when evening comes we want to dismiss them.
Teach us rather to be like him, to let the people stay with us,
and to share what we have with them.
Development is the capacity of a society to tap the roots of popular creativity,
       to free and empower people to exercise their intelligence and collective wisdom.”
Kari Leavitt, Canadian economist

L
ord, we pray for those who work in community development,
especially in Third World countries.
Often, when they find that a community lacks something,
their first thought is to send the people to get it elsewhere.
Teach them to be like Jesus, to say to local leaders, “Bring what you have here to me,”
to thank you for what they bring,
and then hand it back to the leaders to give to the crowds,
trusting that all will have as much as they want.
Lord, we thank you for the Eucharist,
for the many times we were in a lonely place,
and your priest took bread, raised his eyes to heaven, said the prayer of blessing,
then he broke the bread and gave it to us,
so that we ate as much as we wanted.
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Homily Notes
1. Miracles cause embarrassment within our world. The mirac­ulous is suspected as fraud or foolishness; those who accept them as the gullible. Indeed, the whole study of the scrip­tures has been linked with the case for or against miracles: can one accept the teaching of the scriptures, yet leave this whole miraculous dimension parked somewhere either out of sight or somewhere it will not provoke questions such as ‘Do you think that actually happened?’ The problem is that so long as we read the primary stories of the tradition, we will encounter miracle stories like this one. So how do we react?
2. First, we must be honest about our own discomfort with such questions. Many people who grow up within the faith, when they begin to question, hear us refer to these miracles (with­out noting our discomfort or even admitting how they are not harmonious with our sense of rationality) just abandon belief on the secularist assumption that miracles are the province of the simple-minded and such ‘beliefs’ are endemic to religion, so the whole should be abandoned as a fairy tale. For anyone today, such stories as are found in today’s gospel should raise eyebrows.
3. Why do we find miracle stories a problem anyway? Most people in our society use a very simple model of what constitutes ‘truth.’ Truth is no more and no less than what can be observed by the senses directly. This model of truth has replaced the classical, medieval, renaissance, and now even the Marxist ways of viewing reality. This is not ex­pressed by the average person as they go about the shopping in terms of a theory of verification; it is expressed far more concretely with something like: ‘Well if I were there on that lakeside with Jesus what would I have seen? Would I have been able to video it if there were videos?’ If the answer is no, then it is ‘just a story’ (and we know that when something is just a story, then it is lies). If truth is just what you can video, then meaning, values, belonging (at the lower level), justice,
Here we have the mystery of our own gathering: it is no ordi­nary feeding, no ordinary meal. It is with Jesus we have gath­ered, not just us but communities in literally thousands upon thousands of gatherings at the same time. Yet all are hearing the same Jesus, and being taught by him, and are with him as he offers the prayer of thanksgiving to the Father – just look at the words we will use with regard to our bread: ‘Blessed are you Lord, God of all creation … ‘ – and all of us are going to eat the loaf broken by him.
If we realise we have to expand our minds to take in the meaning of the miracle in today’s gospel, we will see that we have to expand our minds in just the same way to take in the mystery we are celebrating in our gathering today beauty and love (at a higher level), and the mystery of God interacting with us (at the highest level) are all just stories.
4. Whenever we encounter their more precious aspects of life we know that they are more than we can see or touch or taste, yet we only meet them amidst the fractured moments of daily existence. So to bring out the significant within the everyday our memory extracts, combines, and presents the meaning in restructured historical narrative. We all know this in our everyday lives when we try to make sense of expe­rience by highlighting, dramatising, and exaggerating some aspects of the past so that the structure of meaning stands out. Here lies the role of the miracle story for it is the memory, here that of the community, restructuring events to bring out meaning. Nowhere is this gift more needed than in seeking to speak of the mysteries of God, and for us whose faith is founded in the Word made flesh this means that we express the totality of our beliefs about Jesus in stories anchored (on the one hand) in times and places, yet (on the other hand) greater in their dimensions than the scope of normal space and time. Such memories, elucidating the mystery of the Son of God who is the man Jesus, are our miracle stories. We need stories bigger than what our videos can record for mysteries bigger than our physical senses.
5. So what aspect of the mystery of the presence of the Word made flesh are Matthew, the churches who heard him, the later churches that read him down to this assembly today, re­membering in the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 men? This is the genuine question we are called to reflect on and believe, not the question of the video camera.
6. Just look at what the scene involves. We have a people gath­ered. They are listening to Jesus and being taught by him. We have people wanting food. We have loaves. We have Jesus blessing the Father (i.e. he offers a prayer of thanksgiving to the Father for the gift of the food; and note that he blesses God, not the loaves). Then Jesus breaks the loaves. And from a few loaves a whole multitude was able to eat as much as they wanted.
7. Here we have the mystery of our own gathering: it is no ordi­nary feeding, no ordinary meal. It is with Jesus we have gath­ered, not just us but communities in literally thousands upon thousands of gatherings at the same time. Yet all are hearing the same Jesus, and being taught by him, and are with him as he offers the prayer of thanksgiving to the Father – just look at the words we will use with regard to our bread: ‘Blessed are you Lord, God of all creation … ‘ – and all of us are going to eat the loaf broken by him.
8. If we realise we have to expand our minds to take in the meaning of the miracle in today’s gospel, we will see that we have to expand our minds in just the same way to take in the mystery we are celebrating in our gathering today.
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John Litteton
Gospel Reflection
In the story of the loaves and fish, we learn about Jesus feeding the hungry crowd by multiplying five loaves and two fish. He did this because he was concerned for the people who had stayed with him and listened to him. In a sense, he was grateful to them for listening to him talking about the kingdom of heaven.
Initially, when his disciples advised him to send the people away, he challenged them to feed the crowd themselves. However, when they admitted that they were powerless, he taught and empowered them by example.
This is significant because Jesus always practiced what he preached and he never asked others to do what he was unwilling to do himself. He satisfied the crowd’s physical hunger and, in doing so, he enhanced the authority of what he had already said to them. Jesus had enough for everybody and still some remaining.
Interestingly, the multiplication of the loaves and fish is Jesus’ only public miracle that is recorded in each of the four gospels, thus stressing its importance for the Christian community. The love and generosity of Jesus in tending to the needs of the hungry crowd offer us an insight into his own total self-giving for others at the Last Supper and in his suffering and death.
Jesus’ miracle of the loaves and fish, which responded to the physical hunger of the crowd, foreshadowed his miracle at the Last Supper when he shared himself in the Eucharist — the Bread of Life — with his disciples, thereby satisfying their spiritual hunger.
The lesson of the miracle of the loaves and fish is obvious: by portraying Jesus as doing what God did for the Israelites in the desert, by giving them manna, the evangelist is forging an identity between Jesus and God. Jesus, who responded to and reached out to people in their need, wants his followers to do the same. The question for all of us is: In what ways do we share ourselves, our gifts and our time with other people when they are needy? In other words, what are we prepared to do to help people avoid sin and facilitate the salvation of their souls? We are challenged to appreciate one another just as Jesus appreciated the crowd that had gathered to listen to him.
It can be extremely difficult to put other people’s needs before our own. However, that is what we are called to do as Christian disciples. In the miracle of the loaves and fish, Jesus relied on his Father’s help as he responded to a crisis. Likewise, we, Jesus’ disciples, need to rely on his help as we respond to crises and needs.
Can we, by our convictions and lifestyles, satisfy the hunger in other people’s lives? In the same spirit, can we desist from asking other people to do what we are unwilling to do ourselves? Let us, therefore, give generously and receive graciously, always imitating the generosity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 
Reflections:
THE WORD:

The multiplication of the loaves and fish is the only one of Jesus’ miracles recorded in all four Gospels.  The early Christian community especially cherished this story because they saw this event as anticipating the Eucharist and the final banquet in the kingdom of God.  This miracle also has strong roots in the First Testament.  For the peoples of both the First and New Testament, the image of a great banquet was an important visualization of the reign of God: the gifts of the land were unmistakable signs of their God’s great Providence; the Messiah’s coming was often portrayed as a great banquet with choice food and wines; the miracle of the loaves and fishes is a clear affirmation in God's providence.  Just as the merciful God feeds the wandering Israelites with manna in the desert, Jesus, “his heart moved with pity,” feeds the crowds who have come to hear him.
In Matthew’s account, Jesus acts out of his great compassion on the crowds.  First, he challenges the disciples to give what they have -- five loaves and two fish.  Then he performs the four-fold action that prefigures the Eucharist: Jesus takes, blesses, breaks and gives the bread and fish to the assembled multitude, making of them a community of the Lord's banquet. 
HOMILY POINTS:
Given the many demands on our time and the expectations of work and school, we need to make time for that “out of that way” place to power down and re-connect with God and with one another.  Our spirits need quiet deserts and sacred time where and when we can escape the clamor of the marketplace and the tyranny of our calendars to experience the peace of being alone with God, to listen to the voice of God in the quiet of our hearts, to know the joy of doing simple, humble things for others.  
More astounding than Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand is Jesus’ transforming them into a community, a community who becomes one in their need, one in the bread they share, one in the love of Christ who has brought them together. 
We, too, can perform wonders in our own time and place by imitating the four “Eucharistic verbs of Jesus: to take humbly and generously from what we have been given by God, to bless by offering it to others in God’s love, to break from our own needs and interests for the sake of others, to give with joy-filled gratitude to the God who has blessed us with so much
The bread of the Eucharist, which we share together in charity and faith, is a prelude to the great banquet of the next world to which our loving Father invites us.
Christ calls us to become a Eucharistic people: to become the Eucharist we have received.

Illustrations: 

Charles Swindoll tells a funny story about a nine-year-old named Danny who came bursting out of Sunday school like a wild stallion. His eyes were darting in every direction as he tried to locate either mom or dad. Finally, after a quick search, he grabbed his Daddy by the leg and yelled, "Man, that story of Moses and all those people crossing the Red Sea was great!" His father looked down, smiled, and asked the boy to tell him about it.

"Well, the Israelites got out of Egypt, but Pharaoh and his army chased after them. So the Jews ran as fast as they could until they got to the Red Sea. The Egyptian Army was gettin' closer and closer. So Moses got on his walkie-talkie and told the Israeli Air Force to bomb the Egyptians. While that was happening, the Israeli Navy built a pontoon bridge so the people could cross over. They made it!

By now old dad was shocked. "Is THAT the way they taught you the story?"

Well, no, not exactly," Danny admitted, "but if I told you the way they told it to us, you'd never believe it, Dad."

With childlike innocence the little guy put his finger on the pulse of our sophisticated adult world where cool skepticism reigns supreme. It's more popular to operate in the black-and-white world of facts...and, of course, to leave no space for the miraculous.

And so when we read the story of the feeding of the five thousand, we tend to focus our attention on the question, "Did it really happen?" There have been a number of attempts to "explain" the miracle. One attempt says that the people were so moved by Jesus' generosity and the generosity of the little boy that they brought forth the food they had hidden under their clothes and in their traveling pouches. This way everyone was satisfied. Another theory says that the story is not really talking about physical hunger but spiritual hunger. When the small amount of food was passed around everyone tore off a minuscule symbolic fragment. In this Jesus is said to have satisfied the thirst of the soul not the stomach.

I think these questions say more about us than they do Jesus..
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If you want to guarantee you will never win public office or be appointed to public service, just say these words: "America is no longer the greatest nation in the world." It used to be the US led the world in almost any category you could think of. But in the past 50 years we've fallen to 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, number four in labor force, number four in exports. I'll stop there. You've got the picture.  
US does lead the world in some things.
We lead the world in television watching...28 hours/week.
We lead the world as the most expensive place to have a baby...about $10,000/child.
We lead the world in obesity (although Mexico is closing the gap fast).
We lead the world in anxiety disorders.
We lead the world in civilian firearms, beating out Yemen, Serbia and Iraq. The US now has more guns than people.
We lead the world in the highest incarceration rates, beating out Russia, China, Cuba and Iran. Our total prison population, including pre-trial detainees and remand prisoners, is 2,239,751.
We lead the world in the highest health expenditures.
We lead the world in the highest cocaine rates, although we're pretty much tied with Spain in this category.
But one category we beat the rest of the world hands-down. NO contest. Not even close. We are #1 in NOT taking vacations. We are the worst vacationers in the world.  
We stink - or excel, depending on how you see it - at taking vacation time, even when it's rightfully ours. Throughout Europe there are statutory minimum vacation days that employees MUST take. The minimum is 25 days. Twenty-five days! Believe you me, these European workers take each and every one of them....
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 And Hungry People Were Fed

A number of years ago young Matthew LeSage, a third-grader, wanted to do something to help the hungry in his city. So he started a program, Hams for the Hungry. In its fourth year, Hams for the Hungry raised $40,000 to brighten the holiday season for people with limited resources.

Matthew's story reminds me of another young man, 13 years old at the time, who read about Dr. Albert Schweitzer's missionary work in Africa. He wanted to help. He had enough money to buy one bottle of aspirin. He wrote to the Air Force and asked if they could fly over Dr. Schweitzer's hospital and drop the bottle down to him. A radio station broadcast the story about this young fellow's concern for helping others. Others responded as well. Eventually, he was flown by the government to Schweitzer's hospital along with 4 1/2 tons of medical supplies worth $400,000 freely given by thousands of people. This, of course, would be the equivalent of millions of dollars today. When Dr. Schweitzer heard the story, he said, "I never thought one child could do so much."

Our story from scripture for today is about a young man who didn't have much. But what he did have, he offered to Christ. And thousands of hungry people were fed.
King Duncan, You Feed Them!, www.Sermons.com
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The Law of Abundance  
Stephen Covey, in his "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", talks about the Law of Abundance vs. the Law of Scarcity. There's plenty to go around. And the more you give, the more you have to give. But how interesting! Covey writes about this, and folks act like it is new. Jesus performed it, 2000 years ago, on a rocky hillside in Palestine. There is plenty of Jesus to go around! 
Doyle Sager, Everyone Ate, Everyone Was Filled
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It Don't Add Up 
Perhaps you have heard the story of the football coach who had two quarterbacks. The first team quarterback was gifted, aggressive, and a born leader. The second string quarterback was, let us say, limited. Oh, he was athletic enough but unfortunately, he lacked a mind for strategy. The championship game was in progress, the score was tied, the home team had the ball, and the clock was ticking down. An opposing player broke through the line of scrimmage and slammed the star quarterback to the ground with such force that the signal-caller had to leave the game. Time was running out. The coach had no choice but to put in the back-up. The substitute trotted onto the field, huddled the team, and strode up to the line of scrimmage. 
Surveying the opposing team, and much to everyone's surprise, he changed the play at the line. The ball was snapped, the quarterback handed it off to the half-back who busted up the middle and sped all the way into the end zone with the winning touchdown! An amazing play. Moments later, in the ecstatic dressing room, the coach grabbed his second-team quarterback by the shoulder pads and said, "Son, that was great! How did you know to call that play?" The boy said, "Uh, well coach, it weren't easy. I got up to the line and looked across at two of the biggest players I've ever seen and I seen their numbers. One of 'em was wearing a six and the other one was wearing a seven, so I just added them numbers together and got fourteen and called number fourteen." The coach hesitated a moment and said, "But son, six and seven make 13." 
The boy, quite unmoved by the correction, said, "You know what coach? If I was as smart as you, we would have lost the game." Things do not always add up the way they are supposed to, do they? 
Traditional Stories, www.Sermons.com
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The Negative Verses the Positive
 
 Outside a small town in New Mexico is a sign that reads as follows: "Welcome to Portales, New Mexico, home of 12,493 friendly folks and 8 or 10 grouches."
 Isn't that the way it is everywhere? There are always a few negative folks around to tell you that Murphy's laws will ruin everything. I like the story about the little boy who was trying to raise some money by collecting old bottles, going door-to-door in his neighborhood. When he came to the home of a woman who was the "town grouch," the little boy asked, "Do you have any coke bottles?" "No," she replied with a scowl. Then he said, "Do you have any old whiskey bottles?" "Young man," the woman replied, "Do I look like the type of person who would have old whiskey bottles?"
The little boy studied her for a moment and then asked, "Well, do you have any old vinegar bottles?"
Isn't it tragic that some people go through life so negative and sour and bitter? And if you don't watch out, they will infect you with their thinking.
How can we live positively in this world where much is discouraging? I think I see some clues in one of the miracle stories of the Bible. Jesus once fed 10,000 people with only five loaves of barley bread and two little fish. The disciples saw the negatives but Jesus understood the positive presence of a little food.  
Bill Bouknight, www.Sermons.com
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Before We Taste Abundance  
How often it is that we do not seek God from the fullness of our lives, but from the dearth. We are regularly reminded that as Christians, we do best when we live out of our 'theology of abundance' rather than scarcity. However, the reality is we more clearly see our need for God from our times and places of pain. Even Jesus took time to go "to a deserted place by himself". He knew he needed to clear his mind of all the insults, false accusations and the conceit. Before we taste of the abundance given to us from God through Christ, we are invited to the deserted place apart. We are invited to come to a place of hunger. We are called toward a time of separation so that we can more clearly focus on who and what we have.  
Wanda Copeland, Reflection on Matthew 14: 13-21.
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"You Feed Them."
Tony Campolo is a professor of sociology and a popular speaker. He was once invited to a women's conference where he was to give a major address. These women were being challenged to raise several thousand dollars for a mission project goal. While Campolo was sitting on the dais, the chairperson turned to him and asked him if he would pray for God's blessing as they considered their individual responses to the goal. Campolo stood and--to the utter amazement of everyone present--graciously said "no." He approached the microphone and said, "You already have all the resources necessary to complete this mission project right here within this room. It would be inappropriate to ask for God's blessing, when in fact God has already blessed you with the abundance and the means to achieve this goal. The necessary gifts are in your hands. As soon as we take the offering and underwrite this mission project, we will thank God for freeing us to be the generous, responsible and accountable stewards that we're called to be as Christian disciples." And they did. 

Wow! Leave it to Tony Campolo to hit the nail right on the thumb! Jesus says, "You feed them!" And we can! This is a rich world and we are rich people!  
King Duncan, "You Feed Them!"
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Taking Care of the Crowd  
Too often, we think that giving our lives to God is like taking a $1,000 bill and laying it on the altar, saying, "Here's my life, Lord. I'm giving it all to you." But the truth of the matter is that God sends us to the bank and tells us to cash that $1,000 bill in for quarters. And then we go through life giving away twenty-five cents here, fifty cents there, and so on. Instead of watching a ball game, we spend some time visiting a lonely person in a nursing home who has no family. Instead of sipping coffee and reading the newspaper, we get dressed and go to teach Sunday school. Instead of playing games on the computer, we listen to a friend tell us about her problems, even though we're tired and have problems of our own to deal with.

These are the moments in which the grace of God can work through us to help another human being, to feed the hunger of the heart and spirit. They may not be spectacular miracles, but these are the things we can do to bring meaning and significance to our lives.  
Johnny Dean, How Much Is Enough?
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Use What You Have...  
In 1872, at the age of 16, Booker T. Washington decided he wanted to go to school. He walked 500 miles to Hampton Institute in Virginia, and presented himself to the head teacher. Washington later recalled, "Having been so long without proper food, a bath, and change of clothing, I did not make a very favorable impression upon her, and I could see at once that there were doubts in her mind about me."
Finally she said to him, "The adjoining recitation room needs cleaning. Take the broom and do it." A lesser person might have been insulted by being assigned menial work. But Washington recognized immediately that this was his big chance. He swept that room three times and dusted it four times. He even cleaned the walls and the closets. Then he reported to the head teacher that the job was finished. She examined that room like a drill sergeant.  She even took a handkerchief and rubbed it across the top of a door. When she could not find a particle of dirt, she said, "I guess you will do to enter this institution."

As a 16-year-old, Washington could not do many things. But he could clean a room. And he did it gloriously. Extraordinary living begins with using what we have. What gifts and graces do you have that you have not fully activated?2
From the Collection of Fr. Tony Kadavil: 
1.     “I shared my rice  because she has seven starving children:”   
From her personal experience, Mother Teresa relates a story showing how generous the poor are, and how ready to share what little they have with others because they themselves have experienced hunger and poverty. Learning of  a  poor  Hindu family in  Calcutta  who had been  starving for many days, Mother Teresa visited them and gave a parcel of rice to the mother of the family. She  was  surprised to  see  that  the  woman divided the  rice  into  two equal portions and gave one to her Moslem neighbor.   When Mother Teresa asked her why she had done such a sacrificial deed, the woman replied: “My family can manage with half of what you brought.  My neighbor’s family is in greater need because they have several children who are starving." Today’s gospel tells the story of a small boy who showed this same kind of generosity. By sharing his small lunch (which consisted of five slices of barley bread and two dried fish), he became the instrument of a miracle in Jesus’ hands. 
2.     "Cheeseburger Bill:"
Statistics tell us that Americans eat 75 acres of pizza, 53 million hot dogs, 167 million eggs, 3 million gallons of ice cream, and 3,000 tons of candy a day. As a result, fifty-five percent of American adults are overweight and 23 percent of us are obese, costing this country about 118 billion dollars in lost wages and medical expenses annually. On March 10 of 2004, the U.S. House of representatives passed a bill known as the "Cheeseburger Bill" designed to protect  fast  food  companies from  lawsuits  filed  by  overweight  people.  One billion of the world's richest people consume 80 percent of the earth's resources. The other five billion make do on the other 20 percent. The world has 840 million chronically malnourished people, most of them women and children. Seven million children in the world under the age of five die each year from malnutrition. Someone has noted that the average person BLINKS his eyes 13 times every minute, and in every minute 13 people starve to death.  Even in the U.S., there are 3.8 million families who experience hunger and up to 12 million families concerned about having enough food to feed their families. The problem is not how much food is available; the problem is distribution. In the U.S., food production  has  tripled  since  World  War  II  while  the  population  has  only doubled, so why are there hungry people? The percent of personal income given to charity in the United States was 2.9 percent during the Great Depression and
2.5 percent in 2002. Is hunger a problem of production or a lack of faith? Hunger is real. And food is the subject of the miracle in today’s gospel when Jesus miraculously fed the nearly 20,000 people present on that Galilean hillside. 
3.     Hams for the Hungry and Aspirin for the sick:
Four years ago young Matthew LeSage, a third-grader, wanted to do something to help the hungry in his city. So he started a program, Hams for the Hungry. This year, in its fourth year, Hams for the Hungry will raise $40,000 to brighten the holiday season for people with limited resources. Matthew's story reminds me of another young man, 13 years old at the time, who read about Dr. Albert Schweitzer's missionary work in Africa. He wanted to help. He had enough money to buy one bottle of aspirin. He wrote to the Air Force and asked if they could fly over Dr. Schweitzer's hospital and drop the bottle down to him. A radio station broadcast the story about this young fellow's concern for helping others. Others responded as well. Eventually, he was flown by the government to Schweitzer's hospital along with 4 1/2 tons of medical supplies worth $400,000 freely given by thousands of people. This, of course, would be the equivalent of millions of dollars today. When Dr. Schweitzer heard the story, he said, "I never thought one child could do so much.” Our story from scripture for today is about a young man who didn't have much. But what he did have, he offered to Christ. And thousands of hungry people were fed. 
4.     A  nervous  young  priest,  concluding  his  first  sermon,  told  the  flock,
"For  my  text  next  Sunday,  I  will  take  the  words,  “And  they  fed  five men   with   five   thousand   loaves   of   bread   and   two   thousand   fishes." A member of the flock raised his hand and said, "That's not much of a trick. I could  do  that."  The  priest  didn't  respond.  However,  the  next  Sunday  he decided to repeat the text. This time he did it properly, "And they fed five thousand men with five loaves of bread and two fishes." Smiling, the priest said to the noisy man, "Could you do that, Mr. Perkins?" The member of the flock said,   "I   sure   could."   "How   would   you   do   it?"   asked   the   minister. "With all the food I had left over from last Sunday!" 
5.     We are over-eating ourselves to death:
Experts tell us that Americans eating themselves to death by over-eating. Obesity is America's number one health problem. The average American eats daily nine hundred more calories than he needs. It is reported that fifty percent of us are overweight. Fifty-three percent of the deaths are caused by diseases that are related to obesity. Americans spend annually ten billion dollars on diets and slimming programs. Even our dogs are over-fed. Look at the miserable contrast: the overfilled stomachs of dogs almost touching the ground and the bloated stomachs of children suffering from malnutrition! If we had compassion on the poor and hungry, we would voluntarily change our life-styles to those which would call for less food in-take. Then, we could take the money saved from buying less food and give it to our church's program to send food abroad to the destitute. One denomination within a two-year period gave eight million dollars for world hunger. This was possible because loyal members sacrificed by eating less that others might eat more. Jesus gave the bread to the Disciples to distribute to the people. In our day those who have, as America does, should have the compassion of Jesus to share with those who have little or no food. 
6.     Spiritual hunger leading people to New Age religions:
Physical hunger is a very real fact of life. Spiritual hunger is just as real. There are many millions more who are spiritually malnourished, and multitudes are dying of spiritual starvation. Many of the symptoms of spiritual hunger are seen here and all over the world. We see today spiritually hungry people who are going outside the church for soul food. This is a judgment upon the Church for apparently not satisfying the spiritual needs of the people. Forty-two million Americans, for instance, or one out of every five, has espoused astrology. They believe that the position of the stars has something to do with their daily lives. Two-thirds of our newspapers carry a daily horoscope. Eight out of every ten Americans can tell you under what star they were born. This turning to astrology is an indication that  people  are  looking  for  something  transcendent;  they  are  looking  for guidance from a force beyond themselves. Six million Americans have embraced Transcendental Meditation and thirty thousand new people each month are signing up for instruction. This points to a need for meditation to get in touch.with God, something many church people must feel they are not getting now. Add to this number five million people who are seeking union with God by Yoga. Three million Americans belong to the charismatic movement, meeting a desire for an experience with the Spirit. Many of these charismatics claim that the average church is cold and lacking in spiritual warmth. Add to this various heretical sects that are attracting people by the tens of thousands: Scientology and the Unification church by Moon.
 
7.     Junk food for the souls:
What is feeding our spirits? Many Americans get their food from television. It is reported that the average child watches twenty-three hours of television per week. By the time a child reaches age eighteen, he has watched twenty-three thousand hours of television, equivalent to three years of his life. And what do they get on television, what feeds their minds and hearts? They are fed materialism through the constant appearance of commercials, often six at a time. In 1976, it is said, television stations ran three hundred thirty-five thousand commercials per month! In these commercials we are fed with a materialistic  view  of  life.  We  are  told  that  things  make  life  happy  and worthwhile. Buy, buy, and have all the good things in life! On the other hand, television is feeding us with sex and violence, more of these coming each year. By the time a child reaches age eighteen, it is claimed that he has seen eighteen thousand murders. On children's television cartoons, an act of violence is shown at the rate of one per minute. These scenes of violence are sowing the seeds of hatred, brutality, and revenge in the minds of people. The tragedy of our times is that we are content to feed our souls with crackers when we could be getting a spiritual banquet. We are living on chaff and husks rather than the good meat of a steak.
 
8.     “You'd never believe it, Dad."
Charles Swindol tells a funny story about a nine-year-old named Danny who came bursting out of Sunday school like a wild stallion. His eyes were darting in every direction as he tried to locate either mom or dad. Finally, after a quick search, he grabbed his Daddy by the leg and yelled, "Man, that story of Moses and all those people crossing the Red Sea was great!" His father looked down, smiled, and asked the boy to tell him about it. “Well, the Israelites got out of Egypt, but Pharaoh and his army chased after them. So the Jews ran as fast as they could until they got to the Red Sea. The Egyptian Army was gettin' closer and closer. So Moses got on his walkie-talkie and told the Israeli Air Force to bomb the Egyptians. While that was happening, the Israeli Navy built a pontoon bridge so the people could cross over. They made it!” By now old dad was shocked. "Is THAT the way they taught you the story?" “Well, no, not exactly," Danny admitted, "but if I told you the way they told it to us, you'd never believe it, Dad."  It's more popular to operate in the black-and-white world of facts. .and, of course, to leave no space for the miraculous. And so when we read the story of the feeding of the five thousand, we tend to focus our attention on the question, "Did it really happen?" Or was it a miracle of sharing the bread people had with them? Some say that this young fellow's example encouraged other people to share food they had brought with them for the journey But today’s gospel presents it as a real miracle.
 
9.     We should rethink our own stewardship of the earth’s resources:
Did you know, for example, that six million Europeans eat as much food as 240 million Africans? Even more startling, the citizens of this country, who form only 5.7% of the world's population, eat half the food produced in the world. Somebody's eating more than his/her share! We spend ten times more money on the feeding of cats and dogs than the sovereign country of Guinea earns as its national income. We are an indulgent, wasteful people. We each need to examine our stewardship of the bounty with which God has blessed us.
 
10.  "I'll pay it for you."
In 1930, during the Great Depression, a man named Golden Rule Jones was mayor of Toledo, Ohio. During his term of office, he sometimes sat  as  the  presiding  judge  in  night  court.  One night a man was brought in for stealing money from a grocery store. His defence was that he needed the money for food and that he was simply a victim of hard times. Nevertheless, Golden Rule Jones found him guilty. "You did not steal from society." he said. "You stole from a private citizen and you broke the law. I'm fining you ten dollars. However," and he reached for his wallet, "I'll pay it for you." Next he instructed the bailiff to pass the hat around the courtroom. "I'm fining everybody here at least fifty cents. You're all guilty of being members of a society that made it necessary for this man to steal. The collection will go to the defendant."
 
11.  "Help, I can't swim:"
In one of his books, Chuck Swindoll tells about a very interesting case that came before the courts in the state of Massachusetts back in the 1920s. It concerned a man who had been walking along a pier when suddenly he tripped over a rope and fell into the cold, deep waters of that ocean bay. He came up sputtering, screaming for help, then sank beneath the surface. For some reason he was unable to swim or stay afloat. His friends heard his faint cries in the distance, but they were too far away to rescue him. But within only a few yards was a young man lounging on a deck chair, sunbathing. Not only could the sunbather hear the drowning man plead, "Help, I can't swim," he was also an excellent swimmer. But the tragedy is that he did nothing. He only turned his head to watch indifferently as the man finally sank and drowned. The family of the victim was so upset by that display of extreme indifference, they sued the sunbather. The result? They lost the case. With a measure of reluctance, the court ruled that the man on the dock had no legal responsibility whatsoever to try to save the drowning man's life. You and I can turn a deaf ear to the needy of this world. We can callously shrug our shoulders and say, "Let God feed them." But God  works  through  people  who  are  responsive  to  God's  leading.  There  is nothing in this world that cannot be accomplished. Jesus said, "You feed them!" And we can
 
12.  Christy, Grade III A.
A man was packing a shipment of food for the poor people  of  Appalachia.  He  was  separating  beans  from  powdered  milk,  and canned vegetables from canned meats. Reaching into a box filled with various cans, he pulled out a little brown paper sack. Apparently one of the pupils had brought something different from the items on the suggested list. Out of the paper bag fell a peanut butter sandwich, an apple, and a cookie. Crayoned in large letters was a little girl's name, "Christy, Grade III A.' A little girl  had given up her lunch for some hungry person as did the little boy did in today’s gospel.
 
13.  Born of the virgin Edna..."
There was pastor who used his computer to create a personalized printed program for every Baptism. To make each one special, he'd use the computer's "search & replace" function to find the name of the last baby baptized and then replace it with the next baby's name. So one Saturday evening, the priest told his computer to find the name "Mary," last week's baby, and to replace it with "Edna," the next day's baby. Next morning, everything went smoothly till the congregation reached the Apostles' Creed and found themselves saying, "...And we believe in Jesus Christ, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Edna..." So often our best intentions go awry, and before we get very old, the reality of our personal limitations becomes painfully clear. The Apostles in Sunday's gospel knew their limits only too well, especially when they stood next to Jesus. So when Jesus looked at the crowd of about 20,000 and told the Apostles to feed the people, they were truly abashed.
 
14.  A poor girl’s donation of “five loaves and two fish”:
A sobbing little girl stood near a small Sunday school building. The pastor asked her why she was crying.  "I can’t get in to the Sunday school," she sobbed. “The teacher said it was too crowded.” Seeing her shabby, unkempt appearance, the pastor guessed the reason. Taking her by the hand, the pastor took her inside and found a place for her in the Sunday school class. The child was so touched that she went to bed that night thinking of the children who had no place to learn about Jesus.
 
 
Two years later, this child lay dead in one of the poor tenement buildings and her  parents  called  for  the  kind-hearted  pastor,  who  had  befriended  their daughter, to handle arrangements for her funeral. As her body was being moved, a worn and crumpled purse was found which she might have gotten from some trash dump. Inside was found fifty -seven cents and a note scribbled in a child’s handwriting. It read, "This is my saving to help build our small church and the little Sunday school bigger so that many more children can go to worship God and to learn about Jesus." For two years she had saved for this offering of love.
When the pastor tearfully read that note, he knew instantly what he should do. Carrying this note and the child's purse to the pulpit, he told the story of the poor little girl’s unselfish love and devotion. He challenged his parishioners to raise enough money for a larger church and bigger Sunday school.  A newspaper learned of the story and published it. It was read by a realtor who offered them a plot of land worth thousands, for the price of fifty-seven cents -- the amount the little girl had saved. The parishioners made large donations. Checks came from far and wide. Within five years the little girl’s gift had increased to $250,000.00, a huge amount at the turn of the last century. Her unselfish, sacrificial love had paid large      dividends. 

When you next visit the city of Philadelphia, look for Temple Baptist Church, with a seating capacity of 3,300, and Temple University, where hundreds of students are trained. Have a look, too, at the Good Samaritan Hospital, and the Sunday school building which houses hundreds of Sunday scholars, so that no child in the area will ever need to be left outside during Sunday school time. In one of the rooms of this building you will see the picture of the sweet face of the little   girl   whose fifty-seven   cents,   so   sacrificially   saved, and   had such   a remarkable history. Alongside is a portrait of her kind pastor, Rev. Dr. Russell H. Conwell, author of the book Acres of Diamonds. In today’s gospel we read the similar story of a boy who sacrificially shared his little lunch with Jesus, thus cooperating with Him in the miraculous feeding of a huge crowd. (Confer Snopes.com for the true story)