17th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 29.07.2018
2 Kings 4:42-44 / Ephesians 4:1-6 / John 6:1-15
Coming for Mass can be quite distracting and challenging, especially if we are hungry.
In the West where eating is like a habit and a lifestyle, to be hungry for a prolonged period of time sounds abnormal and strange.
Still, hunger cannot be undermined because hunger fans the emotions of anger.
Some clever people have amalgamated the words “hungry” and “angry” into a new word called “hangry” to mean a state of anger caused by lack of food.
It is true that hunger can cause a negative change in the emotional state of any living being.
That’s why it takes a lot of patience to run a food business and to face hungry and demanding customers.
Once, I was at a food court and waiting behind another customer to get beef noodles. And I thought I heard her telling the cook that she wants the beef medium rare.
The cook just nodded and prepared the so called “medium rare” beef noodles for her.
So when my turn came I was curious and I had to ask if there is such a thing as “medium rare” beef noodles.
The cook replied that it is better to pretend to give the hungry customer what she wants than to argue about the existence of “medium rare” beef noodles (smart cookie!)
In today’s gospel, food, and the multiplication of food is indeed a point for reflection.
But the reflection is not on how it was multiplied. Rather, the reflection is on why the food was multiplied.
A large crowd was following Jesus, impressed by the signs He gave by curing the sick.
And they continued to follow Him simply because He made them feel loved.
He had shown his love for the sick by curing them. He showed His love for the crowd by teaching them the way of love.
And now as He sees the hungry crowd before Him and He knew exactly what to do.
He was going to show them another sign of His love, His love for them.
He was going to show His love for them by satisfying their hunger.
So regardless of how the loaves and fish were multiplied, the miracle pointed to one thing.
It showed that when God loves, He loves generously and He even loves in excess.
After all, when the remainders were collected ,they filled up 12 baskets.
Now that is the God that we are called to believe in - a God who loves generously; a God who gives generously.
But that is where the problem begins; because very often the attention shifts from the Giver to the gifts.
In the gospel, when the crowd saw the miracles that Jesus had worked, they wanted to make Him their King.
At first they followed Jesus because they hungered for truth and for love.
But now they got distracted by material benefits.
Now, they are interested in more food, more comfort, more security, more possessions.
And that is precisely our story. Yes, we believe in God especially when He gives. But what about when He doesn’t?
Yes, the God that we believe in is a God who loves us generously and provides for our needs.
Yet the God that we hunger for is the God who was nailed to the cross, died on the cross, so that we can have life.
If we only turn to God for food, clothing, shelter, wealth, then we are just like “hungry beings” – we will never be satisfied or contended.
If “hungry beings” are always thinking about food, then poor beings are always thinking about wealth and riches.
To be wealthy and rich but without honour and integrity is like tasteless food; it will satisfy the hunger but it won’t taste good.
A successful businessman was growing old and knew it was time to choose a successor to take over the business.
Instead of choosing one of his directors or his children, he decided to do something different.
He called all the young executives in his company together. He said, “It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I have decided to choose one of you.” The young executives were shocked, but the boss continued. “I am going to give each one of you a seed today – one very special seed. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I have given you. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO”
One man, named Jim, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and told his wife the story.
She helped him get a pot, soil and compost and he planted the seed. Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown.
After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow.
Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants, but Jim didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure. Six months went by- still nothing in Jim’s pot.
He just knew he must have killed his seed but he didn’t say anything to his colleagues. He just kept watering and fertilizing the soil.
The year finally went by and all the young executives of the company brought their plants to the CEO for inspection.
Jim told his wife that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But she encouraged him to be honest about what happened. Jim felt sick in his stomach, it was going to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was right.
He took his empty pot to the board room. When he arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. Jim held his empty pot and many of his colleagues laughed at him.
When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his young executives. Jim just tried to hide at the back. “My, what great plants, trees, and flowers you have grown,” said the CEO.” Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!”
Then he spotted Jim at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered the financial director to bring him to the front. Jim was terrified.
He thought, “Now he knows I’m a failure! Maybe I’ll be fired!”
When he got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed.
Jim told him the story. The CEO asked everyone to sit down except Jim. Then he announced, “Behold your next Chief Executive! His name is Jim!” He continued, “One year ago today, I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds; they were dead – it was not possible for them to grow. All of you, except Jim, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Jim was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. So, he is the one who will be the new CEO!”
Just a story to remind us that hunger for success cannot be at the expense of honour and integrity.
Jesus did not give in to the crowds to become popular for the wrong reasons.
We are reminded that we are human beings and not “hungry beings”.
We only need to follow God’s ways and He will open wide His hands and fill the hunger of our hearts.(SY)