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Fr. Michael's Thoughts on Biblical Imagery: A Boy's Lunch!


(Fr Michael Boakye Yeboah: Vice Rector of St Gregory Seminary, Kumasi-Ghana)


Today’s Gospel is a continuation of last Sunday’s Gospel reading. The Gospel passage for last Sunday ended with Jesus empathizing for the crowd whom he likened to a sheep without a shepherd. The inspired writer tells us that at the sight of the crowd, Jesus’ sympathy was kindled. They were hungry and tired. Jesus immediately saw the need to feed them. Philip was the natural man to whom Jesus could turn probably because he hailed from Bethsaida and would have local knowledge of the situation at hand. Jesus asked him where food could be gotten. Philip’s answer was despairing. He said that even if food could be got it would cost more than 200 denarii to give this vast crowd even a little each. A denarius was the standard day’s wage for a working man. Philip calculated that it would take more than six month’s wages to begin to feed a crowd like this.

Then Andrew appeared on the scene. He had discovered a young boy with five barley loaves and two fishes. Quite likely the boy had brought them as a picnic lunch. Maybe he was out for the day, and as a boy might, had attached himself to the crowd. Andrew, as usual, was bringing people to Jesus. This time the person Andrew brings wasn’t there to ask Jesus for something; be it healing or a request from someone, but this time Andrew brought a boy who was ready to give away his lunch to help in the ministry of Jesus. At times, it is not the how much you bring to help in the Church but your willingness to give. The boy had not much to bring; he had in his possession five loaves of bread and two fishes. Barley bread was the cheapest of all bread and was held in contempt.  Barley bread was the bread for the poor. The fishes would be no bigger than sardines. Pickled fish from Galilee were known all over the Roman Empire. In those days, fresh fish was an unheard-of luxury, for there was no means of transporting it any distance and keeping it in an eatable condition. Small sardine-like fish swarmed in the Sea of Galilee. They were caught and pickled and made into a kind of savoury. The boy had little pickled fish to help the dry barley bread down.

The boy in handing over his lunch did not know the exact end effects of his donations. He was just ready to let go and leave the rest to God. We serve a God who does mighty things with little things. The act of this boy reminds me of the countless little sacrifices that have brought the Church to this level. I would like to thank the thousands of catechists who are serving in those mission territories of Africa, Asia, and South America. Some of these people have little knowledge of theology and funds and yet they effectively run small churches in their poor communities.

My faith tells me that whenever one prays the “Our Father…” and prays the words “give us this day our daily bread…” (s)he should note that it maybe through his/her little contribution that God may provide for someone’s daily bread. You may be having some little (like the boy’s bread and fish), don’t see it as too small for little will you know that God can make “your little” donation plenty in the house of a poor/needy person. It is not the how much that matters, it is the love behind the little donation.

I am tempted to think that greediness and selfishness may be one of the main challenges of some so-called poor nations. This boy in today’s Gospel is teaching us all a big lesson. Let us all think of the “little” we can give to help a needy person. Needy here does not mean food and material things only. We are living in a world that “loneliness” and “depression” are killing a lot of people. Mental illnesses are on the rise but we seem not to give them the attention they deserve. Your smile with a “Good Morning” to your neighbour may be a source of positive energy to bring the person balance, saneness, and peace. Some short words of kindness can do good to somebody close by. God just need your little donation to make things big and uncountable to a needy person; and remember God loves a cheerful giver


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