From the Pastor – July 31, 2011

When it was evening, the disciples approached Jesus and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”

Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.”

But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” Then he said, “Bring them here to me,” and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. (Mt. 14:15-17)

The miracle of the loaves and the fishes is the only miracle that occurs in each of the four Gospels. It points back to the Old Testament when the Israelites were fed in the desert with Manna from Heaven; and it points forward to the Eucharist when we are fed by Jesus with the Bread of Life. But we can’t deny the implications of this Gospel passage to the social teachings of the Church, especially what the Church calls “the preferential option for the poor.”

Today’s Gospel today emphasizes how taking care of the poor should work. When the disciples saw the huge crowds, they wanted to send them away to fend for themselves. But Jesus wanted the disciples to take responsibility for their welfare. He tells them: “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” Very often, we can act the same way as the disciples. We might forget that it’s our responsibility to care for the poor. We might want to pass the buck: “I pay taxes; let the government take care of it.”  But that’s not what the Gospel says. Even the Code of Canon Law says: “The Christian faithful are also obliged to promote social justice and, mindful of the precept of the Lord, to assist the poor from their own resources.”

We are blessed to be part of a parish that has a long and outstanding record of service to the poor. Since the time the parish was founded in 1849, the Vincentian family has had a special mission to serving Jesus in the poorest members of our society. In the Gospel today, Jesus could have done a miracle to feed the hungry without the help of His disciples. But He didn’t do that. He wanted to start with the generosity of the disciples, and have the miracle proceed from that generosity. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote recently: “love for widows and orphans, prisoners, and the sick and needy of every kind, is as essential as the ministry of the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel.”

Finally, don’t forget what Jesus said about the day of judgment when He’ll ask us what we did to help the poor and needy. “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty