Celebrating our Faith during COVID-19
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By Bishop Larry Silva
August 02, 2020
[Carmelite Convent, Kaneohe; St. Philomena Church, Honolulu (Initiation of Elect and Confirmation of Youth of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam)]
The parents of a young man had never told him of their love for him, and the young man hungered so much for acceptance that he did all kinds of bizarre and even self-destructive things to try to satisfy his hunger.
A young woman thirsted for intimacy with others so much that she gave herself sexually to any man who falsely indicated his love for her; but in the end, she was even more dry and lifeless after each encounter.
A woman who was taking care of her elderly parents was so committed to them that she felt trapped in the home, hungering for just a little time for herself but never seeming to find a moment to steal away with friends.
A man hungered for time with his wife and children, but his job kept pulling him away, and he had to work to support them.
There are many kinds of hunger and thirst in our world, not just the kind that can be filled with bread or fish. And, of course, it is easy to lament such hungers, praying that people will find all they need to truly be filled with love. But Jesus looks at us, his disciples, as and he did so long ago, he does today. He tells us to give them something to eat ourselves. Like his early disciples, we protest that we have so little, hardly enough to satisfy our own hungers, much less the hungers of the multitudes. And, just as he did back then, Jesus tells us today, “Give them something to eat yourselves.”
This miracle of the loaves and fishes can happen every day, but it demands certain attitudes and responses from us. First, we have to take stock of what we have. God gives gifts to all of us. We may not think they are much, but they are gifts. We first need to recognize those gifts and give thanks for them. One may have the gift of an open heart for those who are struggling in life. Another may have the gift of noticing when others are going astray. Another may have the gift of gentle encounter, assuring others of his or her love. Another may have the gift of loving confrontation, with the ability to “tell it like it is” to another person, but always with a supportive attitude. Unless we take stock of these gifts, they will never be able to be placed at the disposal of others to help satisfy their hungers.
Second, we need to place all we have in the hands of Jesus, who is not just some long-ago-and-far-away story book character, but someone we know is alive and acts in our lives today. If we put what we have in his hands through prayer, he alone can miraculously multiply all the gifts we place in his hands, so that they can feed many who are hungry in many different ways.
Third, we need to follow Jesus’ directive to give away what we have. We may think this to be foolish, since we may not have enough for ourselves if we share our time, our talents and our treasure with others. But if Jesus tells us to do so, we will never be fulfilled or truly happy until we do.
Fourth, we need to actually go out to those who are hungry and feed them. When Jesus sends them out, he tells them to “give them some food yourselves.” If we put a punctuation mark in it, it becomes, “Give them some food: yourselves!” Give them yourselves with your ability to affirm the lonely, to heal the broken-hearted, to bring relief and comfort to those who are overburdened, and to help others do some of their tasks so that they can have the time they need for family and colleagues.
Today we celebrate in the sacraments of initiation the God who gives us his very self to satisfy our hungers and quench our thirsts. In Baptism we are immersed not only in water, but in the very name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. God shares even his loving name with us. We are anointed with the gift of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation so that the very life breath and soul of God can fill us. Jesus himself becomes present to us here and now in the Eucharist, so that he can feed us with himself and satisfy all our known and secret hungers.
And with these little gifts which seem so miniscule – a few cups of water, a drop or two of Sacred Chrism, and a little tiny host – we are filled with gifts that have fed multitudes for many centuries. But it is essential that we never think these wonderful gifts as just for us. There were twelve basket left after that first miraculous feeding, so Jesus gives one to each of us, filled with the bread and fish of our own gifts to be distributed to our hungry brothers and sisters again and again and again, so that God’s joy and love may be multiplied and fill the whole world.