Paul urges us to live a live worthy of the calling you have received. This is not some new revelation given to Paul by God. From the beginning of creation God had created us to be active participants in the Kingdom of God and living a life worthy of who we were created to be. Adam and Eve were told to “be fruitful and multiply and to rule over all creation” (Gen. 1:28). Rule not just dwell in the land but rule the Kingdom he just created. They had a job to do and they failed but God’s plan for us his creation did not change.
We are created to bear fruit and this fact has been a constant mantra throughout the scriptures. How many times do we have to hear what is expected of us by God before we respond. We are expected to do something to bring the message of the gospel to others by what we say and what we do. If you somehow missed hearing this fact of being a Christian, then let me give you a quick refresher from the scriptures. The psalmist tells us, “we will be planted in the house of the Lord and will continue to bear fruit in our old age” (Ps. 92:14). Jesus said, “my father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (Jn.15:8). Peter inspired by the Holy Spirit says to you and I, “…each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Pt.4:10).
Our problem is the normal everyday Catholic does not feel they have any gift to offer. If most of us believe we have nothing to offer to make our community more vibrant then we are saying God’s word is not true. Even the most senior member or the youngest member of our parish has something to offer our community. We fail to look beyond ourselves to see how God can work through us. This is the message of today’s gospel where Jesus takes what little has offered him and feeds thousands.
You must know this miracle of the multiplication of loaves is the only miracle story recorded in all four of the gospels. John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, has Jesus’s first words to the disciples different from the Synoptic gospels. In those gospels the disciples beg Jesus to send the people away, so they can get something to eat. Jesus responds to their pleas by saying “feed them yourselves.” John was inspired to record Jesus looking at the vast crowd and saying to Philip “where can we buy enough food for the people to eat.”
Remember the scriptures are God’s revelation of himself to us and in them we discover how we are to respond to that revelation. This means that the difference in John’s version contains a revelation given to John which God wanted us to learn and goes beyond the revelation in the other gospels. I believe John’s revelation of this miracle calls us to a deeper understanding of our own response to God’s plan for us.
If you wish to compare the revelations in the Synoptic gospels, please go to my archived homilies and read this same Sundays homily posed 2015. This week we need to reflect on what Jesus said to Philip to test him. John records how Jesus seeing the vast crowd said, “where can we buy enough food for them to eat” to test Philip because he knew what he was going to do.”
Does God test us to see how we respond? God who knows our every thought before we even utter a word. Read Psalm 139 to understand how he knows in advance every word, every though, every movement before we act or speak; he knows exactly how we will respond to temptation, to invitation, to challenges and to his plan for us. He knew Adam and Eve would eat the apple, he knew Peter would deny him and he knows our response to the way we will use or not use the gifts he has given us.
The fact he is testing Philip is for us to look at our own response. We do not know how we will respond when the time comes for our test. The test is for us to discover how much we trust God will work through us. Can we be a part of building a vibrant parish that draws others to come and worship with us. Philip failed that day to trust as he looked at what he did not have instead of what God could do through him if only he trusted. We make that same mistake of not trusting God will use what little we have to offer.
This is the challenge we all face and lies at the center of God’s plan to make us disciples who go out and do wonderous things which feeds the hunger of those seeking some meaning in their lives.
How can we go out and feed those who are hungering for the gospel truth? We certainly are not trained so let those more qualified take on the task of making our parish more vibrant. If you look at our parishes today you will see we have become consumers of fruit, the labor of others, instead of offering what we do have to serve others. The majority of our people have not understood the call to use their gifts and are satisfied because the parish seems to be functioning without them bearing fruit.
We fail to understand the call to discipleship and the result is we fail to see how what we have been given as a gift for the building of the kingdom. We look inward and do only what make us comfortable instead of accepting the challenge to walk on water. We also fail to look beyond what is being done today in our parish and like Philip we only see how what we can offer will make a difference.
I urge you to discover your gift by stepping forward and offering what little you have and see how God will use it to bring life to our communities. I encourage you who are in ministry today to make room for others as they step forward and trust God will grow the ministry in a way that will astonish all of us.