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“How Will We Feed Them?” By Alexis Fuentes, Fiat Ventures

Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

In real life, I’m a bit of a character. I love stories and plays. I love seeing a scene acted out before my eyes. So whenever I encounter a scripture passage with many characters, I ask myself, “Who am I in this scene? Who might I like to play? And what is each person’s role supposed to teach me?”

This week’s Gospel is one such story. We’ve heard it a dozen times. Jesus is a collecting a crowd of followers and fans. He and his disciples are the ancient world’s hottest boy band. People are coming from all over to hear Jesus teach, and they’re hanging on every word he speaks. By all accounts, the crowd has been gathered there for a while. And like a loving Italian grandma, Jesus is worried about his hungry sheep. He asks his disciples, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” In other words, how are we going to feed them?

When God asks a question, it’s never because he is searching for the answer. Rather, he’s posing the question to us, in hopes that we will search ourselves. How will we feed them?

Philip, the pragmatist, responds first. “Six months wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” How audacious of Jesus, to presume they had enough money to feed such a crowd! Then, hopeful Andrew pipes in. “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” I love his tone here. It sounds like a child who hopes to find a dollar under his pillow, even though deep down inside, he knows the Tooth Fairy isn’t real.

Philip is concerned with practical matters of finance. Andrew is afraid to hope for a miracle. How familiar these disciples become as I read this story!

And then there’s the little boy. While each of the four gospels stand witness to this miracle, only John mentions the presence of the little boy with the loaves and fish. I love thinking about this little boy. I imagine this boy loaded with a bag and a basket, charged with bringing home dinner to his family. I imagine Jesus approaching this boy. His face is kind. “May I have your food so that I might feed my hungry people?”

“All of it? You want all of it?”

“Yes. I want all that you have to feed my people.”

“What about my family? What will they eat? How can I go home to them with nothing? They expect so much of me. If I give everything to you, what will I have left for them?”

How wonderful that John brings to us, the Church, the presence of this boy. How deeply we identify with his little place in this magnificent story. Jesus asks us; how will we to feed God’s people? The answer: With everything we have.

What will happen to us if we give Jesus everything? Well, I imagine that the little boy went home with more than a basket filled with loaves and fish. He went on to live forever as the boy who gave Jesus everything he had. He stood witness to the miracle that Jesus is the living bread, and that the abundant life is the promised gift to all of us who believe in Him!

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