In a famous scene from the movie “Oliver,” we see a little boy timidly walking toward the adults who are dishing out the food. When he comes close enough to be heard, he says: “Please sir, I want some more.”
“More?” the stout overseer questions. He asks his assistants if he has heard correctly. “More?” Never before has one of the poor waifs who are confined to the workhouse ever asked for more. The request is first met with disbelief; then it is met with violence. How dare he ask for more!
Through his novel “Oliver Twist,” Charles Dickens brought the plight of the poor orphans of England to the attention of a nation of plenty. Indeed, each of his novels attempted to open the eyes of the 19th century British population to the various social evils of his day. Sadly, there are still millions in our world who are starving and thirsty, who are homeless, and who are the victims of poverty. There are still so many people who need more.
At the same time, the poor are not the only ones who cry out for more. I would venture a guess that the vast majority of the people of this earth are still looking for more. Very few people if any believe that they have enough. The pursuit of more goes on day after day. The difference between them and the poor of the world is that while the poor need more, others simply want more. No one ever seems to be satisfied. In the media of our times we read of people building mansions that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, of star athletes who are making astronomical salaries, and of industrial giants whose salaries rival the gross national product of small nations.
In the midst of this gulf between the haves and the have nots, we read the Scriptures today which proclaim that God has blessed us with abundance. In both the reading from the Second Book of Kings and from the Gospel of St. John, after the multitude had eaten their fill, there was still some left over. God has provided us with more than enough. Elisha feeds 100 with twenty barley loaves. Jesus feeds more than 5,000 with five barley loaves and two fish. Despite the seeming lack of food, all are satisfied and there is some left over.
St. John includes some details in his telling of the story of the feeding of the multitude that are telling. Philip asserts that even with two hundred day’s wages, they could not buy enough food for the vast throng which has followed Jesus into the desert. St. John is making the point that if they rely on human resources, there is not enough. However, Jesus relies on God’s providential care. Because of his reliance on God, Jesus is able to feed the multitude.
We live in a world where most of our activity is designed to gain more. We even drive ourselves into great debt with an eye to being able to make more in the future. All the while, the fact is that when the few have more than they really need, their abundance actually creates a situation when many do not have enough. A telling indication of our abundance is that in our society we have even built structures where we can store the goods that do not fit into our homes and are willing to pay so that someone else will watch over our possessions for us. When will we have enough? When will our voracious appetite for more be satisfied? When will we realize that our need for more simply drives many into a desperate life of subsistence?
Chapter six of St. John’s Gospel will be the focus of our prayer for the next four Sundays. St. John tells the story of the feeding of the multitude in such a way that our eyes will be opened to the abundance we receive in the Eucharist. Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and shares it with others. These are the actions of the each Eucharistic. In our daily lives when we sit down to eat, we also take our bread, we break it and we even bless it. The question before us today is whether we also share it.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M.