Today’s Gospel Passage about the loaves and fishes is among my favourites. I love the idea of the boy offering what he had with him so that a crowd could be fed. One of the traits that most annoys me in people is that of meanness (sometimes coupled with cuteness) and always it annoys me. On the contrary, generosity in word and deed has a good effect – a knock-on effect – and should always be encouraged. I read this Gospel passage at my father’s Funeral Mass in March 2011. It very much reminded me of him and his ways – anybody who called to our home knew what I meant. My father was obsessed with feeding people and “no” was seldom, if ever accepted as a response to having something. I asked my cousin, Sean McDonnell, to read a few words I’d written as a reflection that day and thought I might share them here again. They honour generosity and good example …
They asked me why I did it?
The truth is I don’t know – it just seemed the right thing to do. We had been standing there for hours. He had spoken so much, said so much – time just went by. People were hungry. You could see it in them and yet nobody wanted to leave. There was a muttering through the crowd – “he wants to feed us” – “With what?” someone said – “there’s no food here”.
That’s when I heard myself saying “I have something” – my voice seemed so loud. I was only a child but my voice rose above all others. “I have something”. A man asked what had I and I said “five loaves and two fish” – he smiled. I suppose now I would think it was a dismissive smile but that day I thought he was pleased. He passed on the message “There’s a small boy here with five loaves and two fish” – my heart sank when he added “but what is that between so many?” I blushed and even with my childish counting of two and two making four, I could see he was right. The man who had been talking to us did not agree. “Bring it to me”, he said and they took my food. I’ll never know how it happened but the feeding began. Bread and fish fed to five thousand.
“Why did you do it?” I’ve often thought about that. I did it because my father would have done it. He was always sharing bread with people at home. I grew up seeing him do that. Truth be told, it was he who had given me the few loves and fish before I left the house. I did it because he would have done it. It was the right thing to do.
There’s nothing to beat a father’s good example. Thanks Bill! We will not forget.