Have you ever hosted a party or event at home or for work and had no idea how many people would come or if you would have enough food? Creighton University hosted an event a few weeks ago when we were in such a situation. Last year Project Homeless Connect Omaha brought together at Creighton’s Kiewit Fitness Center 500 volunteers and more than 300 homeless guests for a variety of services from medical and dental to housing and haircuts. But what if the recession pushed our guest numbers significantly higher? Would we have enough food to be hospitable as well as volunteers and services to be helpful?
In John’s version of what is commonly referred to as “the multiplication of the loaves and fishes,” Jesus was not worried about how to feed more than 5000 people who followed him to a mountain precisely because he was performing signs such as healing the sick. In fact, Jesus accepted the potential crisis as an opportunity to test his disciples “because he himself knew what he was going to do.” But the disciples were clearly worried about how to feed so many people and no doubt what the crowd might do if they were disappointed in Jesus and hungry after following him to this remote area.
Some scholars point to the significance of having the followers recline to eat (a position usually reserved for the privileged of the day) and the disciples doing the serving. Others suggest that the miracle of the multiplication may have been Jesus physically creating more food or perhaps that the sharing of the fish and bread evoked generosity and hospitality in the followers who began to share with fellow sojourners around them the food they brought for the day’s journey.
For me the significance lies in the twelve wicker baskets of bread gathered after everyone had had enough to eat, “fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” Here are a few lessons I draw from the gathered fragments:
Participation did in fact grow this year for Project Homeless Connect Omaha: more than 600 volunteers and over 500 homeless guests. We did not multiply any bread or fish, but we did bring together many generous people, with a sense of community and stewardship, who did create something good through their sharing of talents and resources. Overall it was a good day, but our local and national communities have a long way to go to properly structure our society to have an abundance of jobs, healthcare and a home for all. This gospel reading calls us to make our society one in which resources are so abundantly shared that we never need an event like Project Homeless Connect to satisfy people’s basic needs.
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