25 July 2015


2 kings 4:42-44; ephesians 4:1-6; john 6:1-15

we experience constant, unexpected, and maybe even unwanted, demands on our time and resources. sometimes, it gets overwhelming and we want to say: «stop! give me a break!» 

JESUS experienced something similar! 
today’s gospel opens with him going to the other side of the sea of galilee. the synoptic gospels tell us that he withdrew after john’s beheading… perhaps to avoid danger after john’s execution; more plausibly, to grieve over a personal loss.
he has no time to be by himself for the crowds follow him, and JESUS is faced with an unexpected demand, an intrusion on his privacy. 

we usually counter such situations in one of two ways.
the first: completely ignore these calls because these conflict with my plans/needs. the second (especially if i’m someone who cannot say «no»: always put aside my plans and respond to the call… even when i cannot and/or do not want to respond. 
neither response is appropriate; neither is the one that JESUS made. 

JESUS had compassion on them, and he satisfied their hunger. but it is important to recall three points. 
first, before JESUS fed the people with bread and fish, he fed them with his word!
second, he did not wave a magic wand to produce food out of nothing. he asked the disciples to provide food for the crowds, and worked with the «five barley loaves and two fish» which they gave him. he drew on their resources!
third, he «withdrew again to the mountain alone» because he did not want to make the people dependent.

sometimes, compassion is helping people by giving them resources and myself. more often, compassion is helping people find their own resources and themselves. 

an anecdote to end. a young girl was watching chicks hatch. there were a dozen downy yellow chicks huddled under the mother hen… with one egg not fully hatched; she could see a little yellow body pulsing and struggling for freedom through the cracks in the shell. the kid picked up the shell, and peeled it open to free the chick. and she froze… because the chick gasped and stop breathing.
the little girl ran to her mum with tears in her eyes and told her what had happened. her mum explained that each chick has to struggle to break through its shell, and becomes strong through that struggle. she concluded: «there are some things that you cannot do for others; they have to do these themselves.»

will i, sometimes, reach out to meet people’s needs, and at other moments «withdraw» so that they become independent? will i discern when to help people and when to help them help themselves; when to give and when to go away?