Today’s Gospel Reading at the Sunday Mass comes from John 6:1-15:
A large crowd followed him,
because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.
Jesus went up on the mountain,
and there he sat down with his disciples.
The Jewish feast of Passover was near.
When Jesus raised his eyes
and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,
he said to Philip,
“Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
He said this to test him,
because he himself knew what he was going to do.
Philip answered him,
“Two hundred days?’ wages worth of food would not be enough
for each of them to have a little.’”
One of his disciples,
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,
“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;
but what good are these for so many?”
Jesus said, “Have the people recline.”
Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.
So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them to those who were reclining,
and also as much of the fish as they wanted.
When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,
“Gather the fragments left over,
so that nothing will be wasted.”
So they collected them,
and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments
from the five barley loaves
that had been more than they could eat.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said,
“This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”
Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off
to make him king,
he withdrew again to the mountain alone.
Amended excerpt from my book Cooperating with God: Life with the Cross
GRACE FOUND IN RECLINING IN THE LORD
I know of no other way to get to know God other than by building a relationship with Him. A man who has met the woman who he desires to marry will go to incredible lengths to know everything about her. An ambitious student will spend unspeakable hours in lecture halls and in books. A Christian who truly desires God will put no desire above their desire to know, to love, and to serve Him. From their perspective, all other personal desires are not only trivial, but also completely inadequate.
Whether you had repented and stood on the fringes or had fallen down hard and could barely move; the first words that we all hear soon upon entrance into the Circle of Grace is a command from the Lord God to ‘sit down, wait, and rest’. In the Gospel reading above we hear that “Jesus said, “Have the people recline.”
Imagine that you had walked for miles, following a young rabbi who you knew had the propensity to change people’s lives for the better, and when He disembarked from His boat He amazed you even further with His healing miracles and teachings. You had been there in the crowd with Him for many hours in that small private town and had seen and heard many new and wonderful things, but now it was late in the evening and too dark to journey back from whence you had come. Indeed, you were hungry for food and shelter for the night. In fact, you are beginning to wonder if this rabbi, who could take people’s pain away, could also provide you with the bare essentials of life, like food and shelter. Many of us cross over into the Circle of Grace with this singular aspiration and hope; that Jesus can provide for me what I cannot provide for myself.
Some of rich examples that we find in Scripture of the saints sitting down and waiting on God before they began their mission include Moses spending forty years in the desert tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, before he spent another forty years in the same desert tending the flock of YHWH; of Joshua sitting under Moses for about forty years, until the prophet died and he was called by the Lord to succeed him; similar to Joshua was Elisha sitting under Elijah; of the Apostles walking with Jesus for three years and another forty days after His resurrection, before He sent them out with the power to establish His Church on earth; of Mary sitting at the feet of the Lord, while Martha busied herself with being hospitable; of Paul often traveling to seek the blessing and wisdom of Peter and James; of the many spiritual children, students, and acquaintances of the Apostles, who were hearers of their spoken words and helped to pass down the Deposit of Faith. Indeed, many Christians will attest to the fact that not long after their true conversion of heart, that the Spirit of God inspired them to be patient and sit down, so that they could build a relationship with the Holy Trinity through prayer, silence, study, and receiving the Sacraments.
Cooperating with God is about following before we are commissioned to lead. By sitting down, reclining, being patient, waiting on the Lord, listening in silence, being instructed, and praying (even in dryness and dark nights of the soul) we wait on Him. This is not only the stuff of Apostolic Succession, priestly formation, and religious life, but also every man, woman, and child who are In Christ must sit and recline as spiritual children before the Lord until they are able to go out and be effective witnesses of God’s Love in the world. “And [behold] I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are cloth with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49).
I promise that if you just wait on the Lord you will never go hungry. It does take a measure of humility to sit, recline, listen, and wait to be sent, because the only thing that all our proud and vain dirt wants to do is stand up, talk all day, and go start its own church. Some would say that we may have understood humility better in the Catholic Church when we had to kneel down to receive Holy Eucharist. Notwithstanding what is gone, what we are no longer obligated to do with our bodies we must continue to practice in our hearts.
The Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes is a pure case study into how the Church is expected to carry out its duty to serve the mission of the Kingdom of God. Notice the compassion of Jesus in this Didactic Mystery, how He gives personal attention to each person. He could have made their hungry bellies full by just uttering a command, but no, Jesus’ expression of compassion is always one on one. Whether He is feeding five thousand men, cleansing lepers, forgiving sins, or healing sick people, His love is always expressed through the building of personal relationships. In the same way, the Church must always offer Her Sacraments as individual encounters with God, and the people of God always must express their love for neighbor through the building of personal relationships.
“Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might.
The eyes of all look hopefully to you,
and you give them their food in due season;
you open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.”
Scripture texts in this blog are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.