June 2022

Gather the Fragments

Feast of Corpus Christi

Luke 9:11-17

Ever feel overwhelmed? Ever feel the Lord is asking too much of you?

You’re not alone! The disciples probably felt the same much of the time… like when 5,000 people are tired and hungry and it’s late, and you’d really like to send them home – but Jesus says, “Give them something to eat yourselves” (Luke 9:13). Hang on, are we supposed to go order a take-away for this crowd?

Come to think of it, Jesus often asks his disciples to do things that seem impossible, humanly speaking: “Go out to the whole world”… “Love one another as I have loved you” and so on. When we find his instructions hard or even impossible to fulfil, we need to take stock, to ask him to show us what he is asking of us today, in our current situation.

So there are 5 loaves and 2 fish, and we know what happens next: Jesus “raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessing over them; then he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute among the crowd” (verse 16) – a kind of pre-Eucharistic liturgy which shows us where to find the strength we need to do what he is asking of us, looking to heaven and calling down God’s blessing on ourselves and those we seek to serve. But there’s a detail we can easily miss: before multiplying the loaves, Jesus made the people sit down: this is important. It recalls the instruction of Moses when the Israelites are fleeing from the Egyptians (Exodus 14:14): “The Lord will do the fighting for you: you have only to keep still.”

This isn’t a call to quietism or indifference, rather an invitation to be still before the Lord who knows what is best for us. The Lord might well say to us today, in the words of the famous old quote: “Don’t just do something, stand there!”

“Give them something to eat yourselves.” We see so many needs around us, material difficulties but above all a hunger for life, love, truth and meaning that isn’t always articulated but is real. How can we feed this crowd? Where do we start?

When we decide to press the pause button on our distractions – whether tv, emails, or just the thoughts that race in our minds – it’s good to go to the tabernacle, where Jesus waits silently for us. If there’s no church nearby, we can sit before the cross or a holy picture, light a candle, or simply invite him to be with us in our need. Yes, we still have so much stuff to do, but when we bring him our weary hearts and all that seems lacking in us, we find serenity; we can say with the psalmist, “On the rock too high for me to reach, set me on high” (Psalm 60/61:3). We bring him our overwhelmed state, our helplessness, and we ask him to “gather the fragments” of our broken lives to bring about his eucharistic reign in us and throughout the universe. There, we find a peace the world cannot give.

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