After the parables of the Kingdom, the Lectionary jumps a section of Matthew’s gospel (the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth and the death of John the Baptist) to the narration of the miracle of the Feeding of the Five Thousand.
Everything in life is a process, and even this miracle shows us this. The process begins with Jesus being able to identify the need of the people; it continues with Jesus being moved with compassion for that need (the texts puts it so beautifully: “His heart was moved with pity for them”) and then he acted with overwhelming abundance—not only did all have their fill, but also there were twelve wicker baskets full of leftovers.
Unlike the disciples, who are unable to act because they are overwhelmed with the difficulty of solving the problem, Jesus is able to see the little resources that were available—only five loaves and two fish. Jesus does not perform the miracle out of nothing, but out of the little they had available, as the starting point for the miracle of incredible abundance to happen.
We do not have the power to multiply the bread and the fish, but we can indeed attempt to follow the rest of the steps of the process: we can learn to identify the needs of others; we can then learn to be moved with compassion for those needs; we can then learn to identify resources—even if they are minimal; and then we can act, giving abundantly, as Jesus did.
Like the parable of the seeds that fell in different grounds, this text may also divide people in groups. There are some who simply do not see needs. Some see the need but for one reason or another, are not moved by it—it is not their problem. Some may see the need, and feel bad about it, but they are not able to solve it—just like the disciples in today’s gospel. They are overwhelmed by the difficulties to overcome, unable to identify the resources, even if minimal, that are available. But there is also the possibility of becoming a person, and a community, who sees the problem, feels the compassion, sees the resources and the solutions, and acts.
And I firmly believe we have much of a choice about what kind of people we want to be.