This is an article by my favorite priest and author, Fr. James Martin, SJ. The original can be found here. I’m reposting it because I have felt very ineffective lately, in my relationships and writing. Reading this has once again filled me with hope and joy that ” Jesus accepts what we give, blesses it, breaks it open and then magnifies it.” Whatever it is, whether it is a few loaves and fish, or only 15 minutes to show kindness to a stranger, Jesus is pleased with you when you give him what you have out of love.
I hope you enjoy this and please let me know how I can pray for you, dear reader!
Never doubt that God can multiply the smallest act of love. (Jn. 6:1-15).
One participant in the Miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes in today’s Gospel is usually overlooked: the boy. In many homilies and reflections, we tend to hear a great deal about Jesus’s miraculous power; we hear a lot about the disciples’ doubt; and we hear much about the crowd’s amazement; but we tend to hear very little someone who would have been considered “unimportant” in the time. “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Andrew says to Jesus.
But notice that it is from these few loaves and fishes, brought by this unnamed boy, that Jesus makes enough for the crowd. Who knows where the boy came from, or why he brought Jesus his food? It seems unlikely that he would have brought all that food for himself to eat. So perhaps his mother and father, standing in the crowd and overhearing Philip complaining about the lack of food, said to him, “Give our food to the Master, son. Go on, bring it to him.”
Perhaps the mother and father were members of Jesus’s larger group of “disciples.” Remember there are a series of expanding groups: the “apostles” (the Twelve); the “disciples,” and then the “followers.” Perhaps among the disciples or followers was a couple and their son. Perhaps the boy was even the son of one of the twelve apostles. (Why not? We know that Peter was married. Why couldn’t the others have had children?)
After he steps onto the world stage, and gives his bread and fish to Jesus, the boy recedes back into history. We don’t even know his name. Yet the little he gave was the foundation of one of Jesus’s greatest miracles. Jesus feeds five thousand people, with twelve baskets of food left over. (By the way, the contemporary interpretation of this as an incident of group “sharing” is inadequate. We are told quite clearly that there are only five barley loaves and two fish. There is a reason that this story is included in all four of the Gospels: It is a miracle.)
In this life we often feel that our efforts are inadequate. We try to help our friends and family, but nothing seems to work. We try to fix our children’s lives, but it doesn’t seem to help much. We try to seek forgiveness, but others are still resentful. We try to encourage people, but they still seem disconsolate. We try to love, but it doesn’t seem to be enough.
But Jesus accepts what we give, blesses it, breaks it open and then magnifies it. Often in ways that we don’t see. Or cannot see. Or will not be able to see in this lifetime. Who knows what your kind word does for someone? Who knows what your actions mean to a friend? Who knows what act of charity will help someone? Sometimes the smallest word or gesture can change a life. A few years ago I told a Jesuit priest how what he had said to me on retreat helped me through a tough time. When I repeated what he had told me—word for word—he smiled and said he didn’t even remember saying it. His loaves and fishes were multiplied.
Never doubt that the smallest act of love can be multiplied by God. Just like the loaves and fishes from that boy, who was unnamed, unheralded, but, ultimately, very important indeed.
Image: Unknown Artist. “The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes.” Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo. Ravenna, Italy. 6th century