By Kelly Wahlquist
And all ate and were satisfied.
And they took up what was left over, twelve baskets of broken pieces.
The feeding of the five thousand is one of the most familiar accounts of the works of Jesus in Sacred Scripture. No doubt you have heard somewhere under a million homilies about it, homilies that unpack the many lessons it contains. Give what little you have to Jesus, and He will multiply it; the Lord invites us to participate in the work of the kingdom; God’s goodness exceeds our imaginations; nothing is impossible with God; and great results begin with thanksgiving, to name a few.
As we read this Scripture, we often put ourselves in the role of the disciples and imagine working with Jesus to feed the multitude, returning to him when we are empty, and being astonished to receive more. Or, we see ourselves as the young boy, giving Jesus what little we have and experiencing His abundant blessings. Perhaps sometimes we feel like Jesus, trying to find a moment of solitude only to be followed by many little feet. (Maybe the little four-footers who call you mom, grandma, or hey you.)
These imageries all teach essential lessons about our relationship with the Lord. But, I think there is another role to consider as we place ourselves in the story. It’s the role of one who isn’t mentioned in any account of the four Gospels but is someone I believe played an important part—the boy’s mom. Somebody packed the little guy’s lunch!
I imagine that miraculous morning went something like this:
On a hot Bethsaida morn, seven-year-old Benjamin ran home, flying through the house like a whirlwind, saying, “Ma… ma… I gotta go! The Rabbi is here! He’s here, ma! Jesus is here! He came when he heard his cousin John was beheaded! People are following him now! I gotta see him before he leaves!”
The corners of Miriam’s mouth turned up. She was no stranger to the instantaneous enthusiasm of her youngest son. “Slow down,” she said. “Who’s going with you?”
Almost out of breath, Benjamin uttered, “Ezra, and Moshe, and David, and Eli. I gotta go, ma!”
“Ok, you can go. But, first, wash your face,” Miriam replied, using a wet cloth to wipe the dirt off his face—an act instantly met with an “Eeew, Ma!”
“Let’s pack you a lunch,” Miriam said
“No, ma… come on, the others are just going! I’ll be the only guy with lunch. What will the others think?”
“What do you care what the others think? You don’t need to follow the crowd. If your buddies jumped off Mount Tabor, would you? Now take this lunch, and be home by sundown,” Miriam said as she wrapped up two tilapia and the remainder of the bread from last night’s dinner.
Begrudgingly taking the sack, Benjamin walked out the door, saying under his breath, “I have to carry a lunch. No one else is carrying a lunch, but I have to carry a lunch. I’m going to stick out like a sore thumb. Why do I have to carry this stupid lunch?”
Though probably not the subject of many homilies, the lesson behind this little Ignatian exercise is all those little things you do behind the scenes. Whether it is packing a lunch, wiping a face, organizing a WINE book club, or planning a Bible study…when small things are done with great love, God will multiply them, and the miraculous can happen! And, you might even get a great meal out of the deal… with 5,000 of your closest friends.
Lord, multiply every little loving deed I do for your kingdom.
Call to Action
Make a meal for a friend, and if they invite 4,999 friends, welcome them too!
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