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No time for small miracles

Today we celebrate the Pilgrim Saint, St. James the Greater. His greatest and most famous church at Compostela is the host to over 300,000 pilgrims each year. The term “the Camino” has worked its way into our own lexicon. What is it about this saint that captures so many people’s imaginations? He was present at the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, and he can help us live this Sunday more fruitfully. Why is “the Camino” something almost magical that pulls our heartstrings? We are looking for a place to encounter God, so he can fill the void in our hearts. This is very much the theme of today’s liturgy.

God does not waste time on small miracles.

St. Augustine comments that “certainly the government of the whole world is a greater miracle than the satisfying of five thousand men with five loaves, and yet no man wonders at the former; but the latter men wonder at, not because it is greater, but because it is rare.”[1] Jesus is trying to catch our attention with this miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. He certainly caught theirs. Even though it is much less than maintaining the universe, it is still amazing! How was he able to create food for all from a few loaves of bread and two fish? So often worry about little things and ignore the great work that God wants to do within each one of us.

Jesus pushes us into the crisis.

We can get too comfortable in our life of faith. We can be looking at things in an earthly manner. This would have been an obstacle for all of the disciples. We can ask with St. John Chrysostom: “Why then does He ask Philip? He knew which of His disciples needed most instruction.”[2] He noticed that the people had nothing to eat, and he wanted to challenge his disciples. He looks to Philip because his mind is still too earthly. He wants to invite him to the spiritual realities. As long as Philip was in his comfort zone, he would not discover the greatness to which God was calling him. The crisis is where he can force us to leave our comfort zone. This summer, as we are all trying to leave our comfort zone, it is good to embrace the crisis. “I feel bad, great! God is trying to tell me something.” This is a wonderful opportunity to bring it up with your spiritual director so you can keep working to improve yourself.

He pushes us into the crisis, but then he meets us there. Something I found fascinating in this passage is that there is green grass. This reminds us of a psalm where God sets the table in the wilderness. (Ps. 78:19). There are no limits to God’s power. He is willing to put us into crisis, but he accompanies us through the ordeal. We place limits on God when we place limits on ourselves. We can get down on ourselves, doubting our own readiness for his grace. He wants to break through our doubts and bring clarity to our minds.

He wants to satisfy us entirely.

St. John Chrysostom notes “his tender care and the humility and condescension of His demeanor towards them.”[3] Jesus saw the needs of the crowd and wanted to comfort them and feed them.

Maybe, we often fall into the error of thinking that God does not want us to be happy. We can think that he gets his kicks from seeing us having a hard time of it. Nothing could be further from the truth. He does need us, however, to be purified of our self-love.

“God cannot erase in us the image of sons and daughters; each one of us is his son, his daughter. At times we see miracles happen, men and women who are reborn because they find this blessing that has anointed them as children. For God’s grace changes lives: he takes us as we are, but he never leaves us as we are.”[4] Our sin does not conquer God’s love for us. His love conquers in the end. He needs our cooperation, nonetheless.

He wants to use our efforts.

The disciples found a boy who brought five loaves and two fish. We can think about our own Eucharistic life. Every day, we have the opportunity after meals to have a visit to the Eucharist. This is something that has always been encouraged for us as Legionaries. What if we were to do a 5X2? We could spend five minutes, twice a day after lunch and dinner, making a visit to the Eucharist. Christ surely wants to take this time to speak to our hearts. We can sometimes feel that we want to do something big. We want to pass a night in vigil before the Blessed Sacrament. But Christ is asking us especially for the constant, almost unperceived effort of daily visits to the Eucharist. It is like the soft, gentle rain that is always the best for a garden. A garden does not need downpours. It needs constant water that arrives at the roots. May our time in front of Jesus in the Eucharist penetrate to the roots of our souls.

[1] Augustine of Hippo. (1888). Lectures or Tractates on the Gospel according to St. John. In P. Schaff (Ed.), J. Gibb & J. Innes (Trans.), St. Augustin: Homilies on the Gospel of John, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Soliloquies (Vol. 7, p. 158). New York: Christian Literature Company. [2] John Chrysostom. (1889). Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Gospel of St. John. In P. Schaff (Ed.), G. T. Stupart (Trans.), Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of St. John and Epistle to the Hebrews (Vol. 14, p. 151). New York: Christian Literature Company. [3] John Chrysostom. (1889). Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Gospel of St. John. In P. Schaff (Ed.), G. T. Stupart (Trans.), Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of St. John and Epistle to the Hebrews (Vol. 14, p. 151). New York: Christian Literature Company. [4] Pope Francis. (2 December 2021).

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