The power of one
FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE 18th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, August 2, 2020:
Newspaper columnist Art Buchwald, once wrote a story about his friend Oscar in New York City. One day Art and Oscar were getting out of a taxi. As they did, Oscar said to the driver, “You did a superb job of driving.” The cabbie looked at him and said, “What are you? Some kind of a wise guy?” “Not at all,” said Oscar. “I really mean it. I admire the way you move about in the traffic.” The cabbie paused, then smiled, and drove off. “What was that about?” asked Art. “I’m trying to bring love back to New York City,” Oscar replied. “How can you do that?” said Art. “It’s simple. Take that cabbie,” Oscar explained. “I just made his day. Let’s suppose he has 20 fares today. He’s going to be nice to those 20 people. They, in turn, will be kinder to other people. Eventually, the kindness could spread to a thousand people.” Art said, “But even if he is better for it, you’re still only one man, and one person can’t change New York City.” “Yes, he can,” said Oscar. “The big thing is not to get discouraged. Bringing back love to New York is not easy. But if I can get other people to join me in my campaign, it will work.”
We heard in our Gospel today, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” We are given a scenario that at first glance seems impossible to conquer. We’re told that there were 5,000 men, “not counting women and children.” I think we should count the women and children, and when you do scholars put the number at closer to 20,000 people fed that day. It would seem a pretty impossible situation.
This same story in John’s Gospel gives us another interesting detail. We’re told this food belongs to a little boy. The boy trusted Jesus and gave him the little food he had and we all know what happened next. This feeding of the multitudes tells us that one person can make a big difference. Or rather, two people can – one person along with Jesus. This boy gave what meager food he had to Jesus, and Jesus shared the boy’s gift with tens of thousands.
We also notice that this feeding also prefigures so much more. When we hear, “He said the blessings, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples,” this language immediately reminds us of the Eucharist and the Last Supper. So those who ate bread on that day – as many as they were – were only the beginning. They were just a foretaste of the billions or trillions – including you and me today – who would be fed by the bread of the Eucharist.
The feeding of this multitude is not the highpoint of Jesus nourishing His holy people; instead, it is just a beginning. On that beautiful day, on that beautiful hillside, Jesus was just getting started. The key difference is that on that glorious day 2,000 years ago, Jesus said the blessing prayer and gave to the people ordinary bread to eat; which sustained them for a day. Today, Jesus again says the blessing prayer, but will give to us the Eucharistic bread from Heaven. And, my brothers and sisters, this bread will not sustain us merely for a day; this bread – the Sacred Body and Blood of Jesus Himself – will keep us going for a lifetime and beyond into eternity. This miraculous feeding continues as long as we are on earth.
The message of today’s Gospel is this: One person – even you or me – can be the instrument of a miracle when we cooperate with God’s plan. One person, with the help of Jesus, can be the miracle for many. And when we cooperate with God’s plan, His abundance is more incredible than anything we could accomplish on our own; anything we could ever imagine.
British TV celebrity Malcolm Muggeridge converted to Catholicism because of the simple acts of kindness he witnessed in the life of Saint Mother Teresa. He said, “Words cannot express how much I owe her. She showed me Christianity in action. She showed me the power of love. She showed me how one loving person can start a tidal wave of love that can spread to the entire world.”
This is our Good News today: we are all important in God’s plan. If we share what meager gifts we have with Jesus, He can make them bear fruit beyond our wildest dreams. If we offer our talents and treasures to the Lord, He can perform miracles with them. And His abundance will last forever.
Let me close with a poem by the Mexican poet Amado Nervo:
I am only a spark,
Make me a fire.
I’m only a string,
Make me a lyre.
I’m only an ant-hill
Make me a mountain.
I’m only a drop,
Make me a fountain.
I’m only a feather,
Make me a wing.
I’m only a beggar,
Make me a king.
May the Lord give you peace.
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