July 25, 2021 – 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/072521.cfm)
The total population of the world is now at 7.9 billion and The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World estimated that there are about 811 million people in the world who went hungry in 2020. Out of that number, the 418 million hungry people are found in Asia. The report also projected that around 660 million will still suffer hunger in 2030 because of the lasting effects of Covid-19 Pandemic on global food security. Moreover, there are about 9 million people die of hunger and hunger-related diseases. And in every 10 seconds, a child dies because of hunger. This is the cause of the 3.1 million deaths of children around the globe every year.
Here in the Philippines, the recent SWS survey revealed that there are about 4.2 million Filipino families suffering from hunger. And Mindanao has the highest rate of incidence of hunger with 1.2 million families.
With these statistics available to us, there is a need that we become aware of the suffering that our brothers and sisters are enduring because of hunger. We cannot be blind and indifferent to this need. In fact, our readings this Sunday would actually help us to be more conscious of such hunger and of other forms of hunger around us.
The first reading from the Second Book of Kings proclaimed to us how a nameless man from Baal-Shalishah brought food to Prophet Elisha. People were starving and they needed food. This was the reason that the man offered his food to the hungry men of God. However, Elisha’s servant knew that that food was not enough for them all. This was the reason why the servant objected Elisha when he demanded that the food must be distributed. But then, there was something Prophet Elisha saw that the servant did not recognize at that moment. Prophet Elisha believed that no matter how little they have, that will be enough for God to work wonders. Certainly, when the food was generously given to the people, they were surprised because there were left overs. The little food that they have shall be multiplied by the Lord. This was what the Prophet believed.
The confidence in God’s providence and complete trust in God’s power to sustain and provide for His people, manifested also in the Gospel this Sunday. The Gospel of John told us that Jesus was aware of the needs of the people. The Lord was not just conscious of the spiritual hunger of the people but also their physical hunger. This awareness in Jesus moved him to ask Phillip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
Jesus did not just see the hunger of the people. Jesus also felt their hunger. This urged Jesus to do something. However, Jesus needed the participation of people around him. Phillip, just like the servant of Prophet Elisha, could not think of anything since they did not have enough money to buy food for all. Just like the servant of the Prophet, Phillip seemed to be too calculated in his response to the words of Jesus and thus of his response to the needs of the people. Yet, this prevented him only to fully participate in Jesus’ saving action at that moment.
It was Andrew who brought to Jesus a boy who had five barley loaves and two fish. The appearance of the boy in the story was actually very symbolic. He was nameless and faceless and was just a boy with small food. Yet, that nameless and faceless boy must have volunteered and gave generously his food to Jesus.
With the boy’s willingness and generosity, his small share became the perfect offering that Jesus needed so that the people will be fed. It was through that boy who had five loaves and two fish that Jesus did something and made everyone to wonder.
The first reading and the Gospel seemed to have a common ground. There was the small share from a man who came from Baal-Shalishah and the loaves and fish from the boy. The little things that they had were transformed into many. The small share that they gave became abundant.
This is where we find God’s invitation for us today as we have also become aware of the pressing hunger in our communities. We are invited by Jesus to offer sincerely the little that we have. We might be thinking that the world’s problem on hunger is too big for us to respond and our share will only be insignificant. Then, having such pessimistic view and calculated in our generosity will only prevent us from participating in God’s saving action, like the servant of Elisha and Phillip. But let us remember, the twenty barley loaves and fresh grain of the man were insignificant to a hundred men and even the five loaves and two fish of that nameless boy were nothing compared to the five thousand men. However, the man did not keep away his food and the boy did not run away to hide what he had, rather, both of them offered generously what they had no matter how small or insignificant those were. Indeed, this tells us that small acts of kindness matter in the presence of the Lord.
The action of the man as well of the nameless boy were symbols of our vulnerabilities and weaknesses, of our anxieties and fears of having not enough but at the same time the power behind a generous action. To give away the little that we have, makes us insecure, yet, it is actually through the little that we possess that the Lord works wonderfully. When we give something and then we feel vulnerable because that was all we have, no matter how small, is actually the fruit of our generosity. Remember, true generous people will always feel helpless because what they give to others is not something that is only an excess of their possession.
Let us take time today to be that nameless man and nameless boy who generously offered the little things they had, to make a generous action towards people around us, no matter how small would that be as long as it is given in generosity and kindness, the Lord shall make wonders with us and through us. Hinaut pa.