There’s an interesting story in our gospel lesson for the Eucharistic lessons for today. We are used to hearing about the feeding of the 5000 which occurs elsewhere in the Gospels. This reading deals with a slightly smaller crowd, and using provisions provided by the disciples who had been carrying them on their own journey. Jesus and his followers were followed by a great crowd for the previous three days. This being the desert, there were not any drive-throughs, coffee shops, of amenities of any type, and I am sure most of them had run out of food and were really hungry. Jesus noticed this and asked his disciples how much food they had. They came up with seven loaves which Jesus blessed before the disciples distributed to all. There were a few small fish, probably something like sardines, and those too were blessed and passed out among the crowd. Everybody ate and were filled up. When the leftovers were gathered up, there were seven baskets full, much more than the amount of bread and fish they had begun with. Everyone got to eat and each of them was full at the end of the meal. The total number of people was said to be 4000. It was only after they finished their meal that Jesus sent them back to their homes so that he and his disciples could continue on their journey in the opposite direction.
We are used to the stories of the feeding of crowds of people and we think nothing like that could ever happen today. Very probably not, but it could, maybe not by the miraculous means that Jesus had at his command, but it could be done. All it would take would be for each person to bring a sandwich for themselves and another for someone else. There would be many people who would not have the ability to bring a sandwich for themselves, much less bring an extra one, but if half the people were able to bring two sandwiches, there would be enough for everyone to have one sandwich all of their own. That sounds like a pretty good miracle to me. It certainly would be a blessing to those who have shown up because they were hungry and needed to be fed.
There is an old story about stone soup where hungry people would boil water and put stones in. They would tell the children that it was stone soup and encourage them to drink it to fill their stomachs. Not extremely nutritious, and certainly not very tasty.
Many of our homeless people would probably be grateful for stone soup on a cold night. Most of them live without fires or a pot to heat water in, even if there were any clean water around. The stones would probably be covered with who knows what, and it would probably be more disastrous for them to use that than it would for them to go hungry.
For me it’s hard to pass street corner beggars who hold up “Please help me” signs. I never carry cash, so I don’t have any currency to give them, and even then I couldn’t be sure it would go for food and not for something destructive instead. I was just thinking, I could always take a sandwich, and if I saw someone on the street corner, I could give them a sandwich. It wouldn’t be a fancy sandwich, because I do not have a lot of fancy stuff in the house, but I do have peanut butter and I do have jelly. I could make up a butter sandwich next time I go out and have it ready in case I run across someone who’s looking for food in the middle of the desert. Even if they are sitting in front of McDonald’s, I can still give them my peanut butter sandwich. I cannot go into McDonald’s right now myself, but I can share what I do have, and I think that might please Jesus more than buying someone a happy meal or a number one on the lunch and dinner menu. It may not be much, but it would be something.
Like the little boy in the feeding of the 5000 and the disciples in the feeding of the 4000, they took what they had and gave it to Jesus made it work. Okay, I am not saying that my one peanut butter sandwich is going to change the world, but it might change something for someone else. I think this coming week, instead of worrying about sending Valentine cards and candy or even trying to be extremely penitential with remembrance of all my sins, I will go with a fulcrum-type action. Maybe a peanut butter sandwich would be the idea for that day. It would not involve something someone gave up for Lent most likely (like chocolate), and it wouldn’t be like eating a steak on Ash Wednesday. It would still be an active giving and a very small sacrifice that I could make in Jesus’ name.
I think I will do it. What to try it yourself? I really hope you will.
By Evan-Amos, Peanut Butter and Jelly. (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons