Wanting to be alone by themselves after a mission of preaching and healing, Jesus goes with his apostles to Bethsaida. But what is proposed does not materialize; people arrive.
The uninvited do not bother Jesus. He welcomes them, leaving fellowship for fellowship. Soon the mission resumes.
It is getting late, but it matters only to the Twelve. They remind Jesus that they are where there is nothing, and that it is better, therefore, for the crowd to leave. He does not brush aside the multitude’s material need. He does not say what he said to the tempter who sought to make a conceited magician of the Messiah, namely, “One does not live by bread alone.” This time he answers, “Give them some food yourselves.”
It is thus indicated that fellowship with him means solidarity. Without it, the hungry do not attain either corporal or spiritual satisfaction. Human wholeness demands such fellowship. According to St. Paul, it is due to lack of communion and loving solidarity that, among the Corinthians, many “are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying.”
Hence, the members of the body of Christ have the same concern for one another. They are not allowed to live by “Every man for himself.” Among them, no one is abandoned or made to feel ashamed, not even—or better, not especially—the least, the most useless, the poorest. One’s deprivation is everybody’s deprivation; if one is satisfied, everybody is satisfied. No one goes ahead with his own supper, letting others go hungry. They all wait for one another. They share what they have. Even the few things one hands over will be multiplied by Jesus more than a thousand times, so that all will have their fill and there will be left-over.
And when one is completely empty—after giving all, in imitation of the one who emptied and sacrificed himself on the cross, and whose priesthood was prefigured by Melchizedek’s—then one is full, so that one’s surplus may supply others’ needs. Those who are so left with nothing may well say what St. Vincent de Paul said. Informed that there was no money left to help the poor, he replied to the one who had broken the news to him: “That is good news! Blessed be God! Right timing! Now we can show we trust in God” (Abelly 3, III, 13; Thomas F. McKenna, C.M., Praying with Vincent de Paul).
As St. Vincent’s experience shows, Providence does not disappoint. We are even given a share in Jesus’ inventive love, from which the Eucharist emanates (Coste XI, 142-148), so that we may transcend what we have proposed and be disposed to leave the sacrament of the altar for the sacrament of the hungry.
Ross Reyes Dizon