Today’s Gospel, we are told, interrupts the regular programme of Mark’s Gospel and for the next five Weeks John speaks to us of Eucharist. There could all too easily be a response that “we’ve heard it all before” and, though we have, there is a call to listen with open ears, watch with hopeful eyes and speak with fresh voice. The feeding of the multitude is one of the better known miracles. Often, when presses are empty and stock is low and more have arrived for feeding than expected we wish and pray for the ability to multiply what we have so that more can be given and shared. It’s a noble wish and a Christian task to share with others even when there is little to be shared. We would do well this week to reflect on this passage in the days to come – we would do well to deepen our own desire to share and to express gratitude for those who share with us.
I might step into the crowd for a moment and, in so doing, invite you to step into the crowd with me. Yes, it’s a large and daunting crowd – a hungry crowd – a waiting crowd but only one of them is mentioned – that “small boy” who stepped forward and offered all he had. What drove him to do that? Good example from home? Most likely. A desire to feed and share? Certainly. Could he have imagined his offering making such a gigantic difference? Hardly. Yet he offered, his gift was accepted and the benefits to the wider community were immediately obvious.
One of the graces of being here this year was to meet your newly ordained priest, Fr Greg. Seeing him and watching his joy at being a priest brought me back to my own becoming a priest more than twenty years ago. Fr Greg’s happiness is so evident and his hunger for Ministry refreshing. Seminary days prepared him for this but there’s nothing to equal standing in the crowd and knowing that you have something you want to give – like the small boy of the Gospel, you may not be fully sure what it is, how useful it may be or what difference it might make but you want to give.
That small boy in the crowd – that small boy or girl still present in each one of us must not get lost. When we are hesitant, unsure, frightened, feeling less than worthy, this is the time to find the small child in our own crowd of 5000. This is the time to remember our innocence. This is the time to recapture our enthusiasm. This is the time to speak loud our prayers. This is the time to step forward having found the child within. Does this mean we become childish? Maybe it does! Maybe it means we don’t worry so much about what others might say but rather desire to do our best by and for people. The boy put no cost on his offering but he knew it had value.
Another point that might be worth the making today is this. Our Church must not lose sight of our young and their giftedness. Sadly there have been mistakes, too many for the numbering and too hurtful for the remembering in some of our dealings with the young but this must not frighten the now and the future in us – children are at the heart of our church – they are at the centre of married life – they are, quite literally, our future and we must- absolutely must – recognise that today. The talents and giftedness of that young child was spotted in a crowd of 5000. We cannot close our eyes to that same blessed talent alive and active in the young boys and girls, men and women, of today’s church. It is from these Fr Greg is found. It is from these our cantors, readers, acolytes, Ministers of the Eucharist, male and female religious, husbands, wives and parents are found.
Let us look among the crowd. There’s a wonder to be worked with five loaves and two fish!