I woke up this morning thinking about this Sunday’s Gospel story of Jesus multiplying loaves and fish to feed the multitude of people who were coming to him after he had crossed the Sea of Galilee. It seems that this is the only miracle of Jesus that is depicted, with some variations, in all four Gospels, even appearing twice in both the Gospels of Mark and Matthew. For some reason, my mind drifted to a part of my own family story.
I come from a “right off the boat” Italian family – my parents and three oldest siblings arrived after having known the ravages of war. My older brother, who has since passed, and I were born in the United States. Adjusting to all that was foreign to them was no easy feat. And we were not a family of means, so my parents both worked six days a week. My mother arrived home from work each night, changed her clothes and began preparing the evening meal – always a simple first and second course and always from “scratch.” No canned food, no frozen dinners, nothing processed, no take out, everything fresh – and she always had a plan. All this after a day’s worth of stitching collars on raincoats, using a feet propelled sewing machine and then, weathering the Green Line.
Regardless of how hungry we were or how many friends dropped by, there always seemed to be enough food to go around; and I can’t remember a time when we didn’t have some leftover as well. My mother was always the last one to sit at the table because she was always preparing what was coming next. No matter how many times we called her or told her to come to the table so that we could all eat together, she was always the last to arrive and even then took time to make sure that we all had what we needed.
One Sunday, we all decided that none of us was going to eat until she sat at the table with us from the very start of the meal. We sat with tempting delicious plates of homemade pasta before us, conversing around the table with an eye on the doorway, waiting for my mother to enter. In she came and when she took in the scene, a quizzical look appeared on her face as she wondered why we weren’t eating. Was there something wrong with the food? My father told her to sit down, and for the first time and ever after, we all began eating together.
Devoting her life to her family – working, cooking, sewing, cleaning – was what gave my mother meaning. My sister and I helped my mother as much as we could, but my mother led the charge, seeing it as her God-given vocation. Her love for God, who was the center of her heart and the strength that flowed through her veins, and her love for us, was never ending; she always had a watchful eye, and she demonstrated her care for us in such unassuming ways.
Both then and now I stand in awe of the power of that love that emanated from her whole being. I don’t mean to convey that we had a perfect family or that my mother was perfect. Just that there were times that felt perfect. As the family grew and our doors were opened to others, invariably someone would shake their head and ask, “How does your mother do it?”
This is kind of how I feel when I think of the life of Jesus. I shake my head and wonder, “how did he do it?” I don’t mean how did he perform the miracles, as I believe they came from a place of deep union with God and a deep love for God; and I don’t ask if the miracles really happened, as some skeptics do. I mean, what enables one to live such an unwavering life of purpose and meaning geared toward the wellbeing of others?
One Gospel story after another reveals Jesus’ care and concern for us and his watchful eye for our wellbeing. Jesus’ compassionate gaze upon all who needed healing and his desire for all to be healed captures me the most. When the leper said to him, “if you will it, you can make me clean,” Jesus replied, “I do will it. Be made clean.” When the woman was afflicted with a hemorrhage for twelve years, she just touched his clothes and was healed. In another section of the Gospel, many were healed just by touching his tassels. Jesus was so filled with the desire to heal that his whole self emanated with healing power, so much so that even his clothes could not contain it and became instruments for healing.
The Gospels are replete with stories of Jesus’ unending love for the people of His time. He spent his life teaching, feeding, healing, challenging, caring, never for his own glory but for our benefit and to fulfill his God-given call to, “bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.” He did so unassumingly, to the point of sacrificing his own life for the benefit of humankind. He didn’t just do it 2,000 years ago. He is alive today with the same desire, calling us to be in relationship with him so that we can
benefit from all that He has to offer. This is a broad brushstroke of who Jesus is for me, and I can’t help but stand in awe of Him. Who is Jesus for you?
in Ordinary Time
July 24/25, 2021
The story of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes is a familiar one, and has many lessons, not
least of which is how our willingness to share who we are and what we have.
Exercising good stewardship serves to release God’s power and bountifulness on the world and its people.
Do we realize that there is enough for all if we are willing to share?
Are we aware that God is at work when we share our time, our money and our other resources in His name ?