This week’s Gospel is one I have heard so many, many times before: Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand. You might say that this is one of the beloved Gospel stories that are told and retold time again, along with Jesus calling his disciples and parables like The Good Samaritan. Funnily enough though, I actually remember the first time I heard about Jesus feeding five thousand people with just five loaves of bread and two fish.
It was during religion class in Year 5 and I distinctly remember feeling astounded. It wasn’t actually the act of feeding all those people with such a small amount of food that blew my mind, it was that once everyone had enough to eat, the disciples were able to fill twelve baskets with the leftovers. My little 9-year-old brain couldn’t quite wrap its head around where the baskets came from. Was Jesus really that powerful that He could not only make an abundant amount of food out of so little but also make baskets appear out of nowhere?
All jokes aside, here I am decades later and my mind is still blown. Not by the baskets so much anymore as by the characters… well one in particular… the boy. You see the heading of the story had me fooled for a little while there. For years I thought it was about Jesus, after all the title is: Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand. After much thought though I’ve realised that the true “hero” of this story is actually the boy.
No one else in the whole crowd of people, not even the disciples, showed an ounce of the courage and generosity of this boy. He offered all that he had (little as it was) without fear of missing out or going hungry. He didn’t even ask what was “in it for him” or what kind of payment he could get in return. No. He simply gave without hesitation and without agenda as an act of unselfish hope, trust and faith. Hope that he too would be filled, and trust that his gift was enough and faith that Jesus would do great things with his humble generosity.
There is a lot that we can learn from this boy. Like him we too are called to give all that we have – as humble an offering as it may be – in hope, trust and faith. Hope, that in giving of our compassion, kindness, mercy, joy, dignity and love… that we too will receive. Trust, that having been made in the image and likeness of God that we are enough, our gifts are enough. And faith, faith that Jesus will do great things through us if only we have the courage to step up and offer all that we have, even if it is but a few loves and some fish.