The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (14:14-22)
How often we take for granted the mercy and kindness of God towards all people. How often do we get wrapped up in our own lives and our own trials and difficulties and forget that many years ago, God sent His only begotten Son to dwell with us, to experience our pains, to enter into our humanity.
Into this very world, God sent His Son Jesus Christ. And when He grew, He went out and preached the good news of God’s love, and the need for repentance to all people. As He preached and taught, He healed them, not only with His words, but also by laying hands on the sick and suffering. It is possible that we never imagined the types of crowds that would be drawn to a man who could offer the people so much. They came by the thousands and followed Him. And He showed His compassion on them by speaking to them, teaching them, laying hands on them, healing them, and forgiving their sins. During one of these encounters with the very large multitude, the disciples came to Our Lord and said “This is a deserted place and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” What the disciples were asking was a reasonable human request. On it’s face, it makes sense and is quite logical. The people are hungry and they have almost no food here, so they need to go away and find food to eat.
What was the problem with their thinking? It eliminated God from the equation. According to human wisdom it was a good idea, but according to the wisdom of God, it was completely unnecessary, in fact, if we really understand the identity of the Lord Jesus Christ, it was just plain wrong. But the disciples did not yet understand fully. They understood that Jesus was special. They thought that He might be the Messiah, the anointed one of Israel. But they did not fully understand did they? What did they not understand?
They failed to recognize Jesus as the only Son of God. They failed to recognize Jesus as equal to God the Father. They failed to recognize Him as the creator of the whole universe. When we have a problem in our life, it is important to put it within the proper context. It is important that the context includes God and that with God as part of our context, we understand that the whole situation has the potential to be completely transformed. The disciples were looking for an earthly solution because they did not see the Heavenly standing right before their eyes. They contemplated what was humanly possible because they could not fathom that the One in their midst could do the impossible.
Each of us has situations in our life that are like this one. We find ourselves hungry or tired and lacking the things that we think are necessary for life. But the Lord reminds us that when He is present, hunger and want are absent. And this is not strictly a physical matter of hunger and want, but even more importantly it is a spiritual matter. We feel that we lack peace, we lack fulfillment and we may be tempted to seek out distractions or to seek out something to numb the pain, or we may even seek to follow false gods that would tempt us by offering “peace” or “happiness” or “contentment”. For instance this is one of the alluring temptations put forward by those who encourage meditation.
Through all of this, we should remember that our human problems require more than mere human solutions. They require Divine intervention. This by the way, is why we should take politicians and politics with a grain of salt. On that day when the Lord was teaching and healing the sick, the disciples had only 5 loaves of bread and 2 meager fish. There is no way that they could have possibly fed ten or twenty thousand people with such a small amount of food. And even today, we look at our problems and our limitations and we allow these limitations to define us and our situation. Yet God is not defined by our limitations. When we have faithful obedience, He reminds us that He is beyond limitations. He is the one who creates “out of nothing.”
Again, this can apply to our physical circumstances but it is even more appropriate to our spiritual condition. We are hungry for the grace of God. We are hungry for spiritual gifts. We are hungry and thirsty for righteousness (or at least we should be). Yet, we look at ourselves and we feel that there is nothing good within us. We fail continually. But let’s look at what happened to the large crowd. The Lord ordered them to sit, and those who obeyed were treated to a royal meal with the King of kings. I imagine that there were some who did not sit and did not obey the Lord. They may have said to themselves “While I would like to sit down, it is getting late and we’ve been here all day and we have a long way to travel. I better get on the road and find some food and lodging.” Yet those who obeyed, saw and partook of a great miracle.
Regardless of what difficulties we face. Regardless of our own shortcomings. One this is certain, when we obey the Lord Jesus Christ, He will allow us to see wonders in our life. He alone has the power to give us good things, things that we truly desire in our hearts. He alone can multiply grace and spiritual blessings and the peace and joy that come with them. And what is asked of us in return? Simply that we obey and sit in His presence.
This imagery is so powerful and it reminds me of another miraculous meal….our Sunday Liturgy. All over the world, millions of Orthodox Christians are coming together in obedience to the teaching of the Lord, and they will receive the body of Christ. All of us are mystically and spiritually connected. We are not partaking of separate loaves, but of the One loaf and the One cup! We are united through these in the One Lord and then just as we hear in today’s gospel passage, the Lord dismisses us and allows us to leave filled, nourished and satisfied. This is another spiritual law; No one who comes to Christ hungry or thirsty is turned away empty handed. The Lord provides because He loves His children. There is no good father who doesn’t offer the very best to his children. Only bring your small offering and obey His voice, sit at His feet and be patient. As the psalmist writes “I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry.” May He also hear our cries and multiply whatever we may have to the glory of His name. AMEN.