The boy who gave away his lunch

Al Cariño
17th Sunday in OT
July 27, 2003
Reproduced with Permission

The first missionary journey of the twelve apostles resulted in a huge crowd swarming around them and Jesus. Then Jesus, seeing all 5,000 of them hungry, had compassion on them and fed them by multiplying a boy's lunch of five loaves of bread and two fish (Jn. 6:1-15). Let us take a closer look at the three people who played minor but important roles before the miracle happened if only to draw out some important lessons.

First, there was Philip. When Jesus asked him where they could buy food for the crowd, Philip answered that 200 days' wages worth of food would not be enough. Obviously, Philip saw the problem but was overpowered by it. Thus he was unable to provide a solution.

Then there was Andrew. He looked for a solution but what he found seemed very insignificant -- a boy's offer of his lunch -- five loaves of bread and two fish. Nonetheless, he told Jesus about it but was quick to add, "What good are these for so many?"

Finally, there was the boy who offered his lunch. It was really insignificant. But what gift offered to God is not? It was all Jesus needed to work the miracle. For what mattered to Him was not the size or value of the gift but the spontaneity with which it was given. And with it Jesus showed that He was not only resourceful, He Himself was the Source.

Just as Jesus was concerned for the poor and hungry, so should we. In our day, we do not have to look far to discover them -- many just "one day, one eat" people -- right in our neighborhood. Yet we do not bother with them or we make all kinds of rationalizations in not helping them. Those people are poor, we say, because they do not work hard enough. Or they are unemployed because they squandered their time in their youth and thus failed to acquire useful knowledge or skills. So we tell ourselves that since they did not help themselves in the first place, why should we? As if those people want to be poor! As if Jesus made exceptions as to what kind of poor we are to help! As if that little boy made all kinds of rationalizations before he offered his lunch!

We must remember that when Jesus gave the criteria as to how His followers would be judged at the end-time, He put at the head of the list, "I was hungry and you gave me food." Yet very often, we act like the calculating Philip and Andrew. When the odds seem insurmountable, we give up. And like them, we say, "Send them home." But what did Jesus say? "Feed them." In short, Jesus is telling us: "Do something to appease the poor's hunger, their needs!"

Along this line, the reflections of Fr. Ruben Villote on the miracle in his book Crumbs from His Table may help us:

"I don't believe that in such a multitude of people following Jesus through a journey of nine miles, not one or two or even three brought food (baon)! It was the Paschal Feast, and the people were celebrating. But each one was holding on to his food. After all, if they were to bring out their provisions, others might want a part of it, or take it away. So there was food on that hill. The owners simply didn't want to share it.

"Except for a young child. He brought out his provisions -- five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus took the bread and fish, he offered thanks for them, broke these into small pieces and shared the food with everyone there. And that was what the other people did -- they took out their food, gave thanks, broke it into portions, and shared the food they brought. The people opened their hearts, their hands -- and they experienced a miracle! The miracle wasn't in the multiplication of the bread, but in the multiplication of people who had opened their hearts."

We easily forget that no matter how poor we are, like the boy, we also have our "five loaves and two fish." Thus we too can help others in need with the little we have. We may do this by sharing now and then some food from our table with our poor neighbor? Or we may help support a poor family's child for his schooling or treat our house help well as well as pay her a just wage.

If we are really poor, we may still be able to help others by sharing our time and talent with them. Or we utter a kind word or do a good deed to someone, lend a listening ear him to his problems, offer him our sincere advice, or give him the assurance of our prayers.

Indeed, no one is really so poor as to have nothing to give. And God can do wonders with the little we give spontaneously to others out of our concern and love for them. And if all of us do so in our own little ways, then we are really multiplying the bread of kindness in this uncaring world. Then no one will go to bed at night hungry. This is what the little boy has shown us when he gave away his lunch.