One day Jesus was walking along with the disciples and, as usual, a crowd gathered around him. The disciples were not really all that happy about that. Jesus had gone into a solitary place, a place away from the reaches of Herod, since Herod had just beheaded John the Baptist. Simon the Zealot had suggested they scram for a while. It was the safest thing to do he had told Jesus and the group and Jesus had gone along with the suggestion. But now, well, there was this really big crowd and it made them all nervous.
But the crowd had come and Jesus had welcomed them to share the journey down the road. He had talked to them. He had seen their diseases and he had healed them all while traveling down the road to.., well, no one really knew, not even Simon Zealot who had suggested they go on the lamb, but Jesus somehow seemed to know where they were headed and did not mind a bit.
It had been a great day but now it dawned on Thomas that evening was coming and that it would be night soon and that it was time for everyone to find there way to the safety of one of the villages around them. Thaddeus knew the region and so they asked him where all the towns were that were in walking distance. That way they figured, they could mingle with the crowd and urge them to go to this village or that depending on how strong they were.
Matthew and Judas had taken stock of the purse and were even ready to meet out some money to those who where obviously destitute even though they were not so sure how they would set the standard for who was needy and who was not, and besides, they needed some left for the group.
Bartholomew was carrying the food that day and reported that he had 5 loaves of bread, and John, the son of Zebedee, the fisherman, had two good size fish with him, filleted and salted down, ready to eat, a couple of bites for each. Yes, it was salted fish but it would do. No, it wouldn’t either! Yes, you can live off it but it tastes horrid. It would be better if they could make it to a village themselves, preferably Magdala where Mary of Magdala lived. She and Martha would really spread the feast for them.
Philip and Andrew finally went to Jesus with the plan. Each would take charge of a part of the crowd and direct them to the most convenient village and so on. Philip was doing his best to explain the plan to Jesus but he soon noticed that Jesus was distracted. He seemed to be looking over Phillip’s shoulder. “What have we planned for our dinner?” he asked them. “Well Bartholomew and John think they have enough to feed our group but..” “Excellent!” interrupted Jesus; “And I just got a great idea: Let’s invite all those people to take their supper with us.” Someone, probably Judas, exclaimed from the back: “Oh, good grief.”
“Master,” Peter barged in, “We have 5 loaves of bread and two fish, so..” “Excellent!” Jesus said as if he had not noticed that Peter was going to continue, “We are so in business! Bread and fish will make a great supper for these, our fellow travelers. As you had planned, fan out to talk to them but instead of your plan, have them sit down and tell them we will feast right here. Tonight! Have Bartholomew bring the food to me.”
So it came to be that James and Bartholomew broke out the food and, with much hesitation, brought it to Jesus. They figured that when he saw how little there was he would change his mind. They waited anxiously. But instead of going with their plan, after seeing their poverty of food, Jesus instead urged them to have the crowd sit down and them come back to help serve. Peter looked at Simon Zealot: “They are going to riot when they find out there is not enough aren’t they?” “It won’t be pretty, but then I always thought I would die violently.” Simon replied soberly.
Meanwhile Jesus had lifted the food up to heaven and was giving thanks and praise to God. Peter, Andrew and Thaddeus were looking at each other. Their faces read: “Should we quietly slip away. This will be an embarrassment if not worse.”
The prayer ended and Jesus started to break and meet out food. The disciples reluctantly took and gave out. And they took and they gave out. And they took and took and gave and gave. It seemed not to ever end. But they were busy and the crowd was pushing in on them. As a matter of fact they were so busy that they did not notice at all how much was going through their hands.
Matthew, who was good with numbers and amounts, noticed that something extraordinary was going on, but in disbelief he just kept working. Judas, also good with numbers, noticed as well, though he figured that Bartholomew and James had probably conveniently lied about who much they had available, but then the crowd was thick and he was not about to start arguing right then.
The crowd thinned out around the exhausted disciples. They still had food in hand, though they were too confused and tired to eat right then. The master’s voice came from behind them: “Brothers, we must not waste anything. Let’s make sure that we pick up all that seems left over. Peter stared at Jesus with a most incredulous expression. “Left over?” He thought it, but he dared not say a thing.
All twelve went about the task of collecting the leftovers. Jesus sat at the top of a little hill and watch the scene where five thousand people ate. At his feet even a little sparrow found a meal. The master smiled. The bird snatched a coin size portion of bread and took to the wing and was gone. He marveled at how rich sparrows really are.
When they finally came together at the fire that lit the night in the remote land where they were staying they took stock of what they had. Baskets and baskets surrounded them. They were tired and really not in the mood to count them but, as they were curious, Matthew got chosen to count the leftovers. Twelve baskets full. “There is some strange new Math going on here.” Matthew had muttered. No one believed his count until morning. Then they all wondered and came to the same conclusion Judas had.
There had been a lesson taught that night in the desert bare, dry, and poor but no one seem to have noticed what that lesson had been. Later, when Jesus raised the subject, all the disciples could do was to wonder about the bread and then again look at their own lunch pouches and notice them empty and worry. No, the lesson of that evening did not strike the disciples in any way they seem to have grasped.
That lesson is that love knows no poverty and sees no riches. Love, the way that only God is love, the way that Jesus loves, sees clearly the possibilities to show compassion and acts.
When and where God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Love in trinity, are present, when and where God’s will is known and cherished, then and there is all that is ever needed. No poverty can prevent what the love of God wills and even the riches of a small sparrow, the poorest of birds, is enough to work miracles. Where God and his will is absent all the riches of Herod, all the riches of Rome, all the riches of Bill Gates, all the riches of the United States of America, will not be enough to even feed twelve, much less 5000, much less you and I, and maybe not even a small sparrow.
The trick is this: pray to be part of the motion of this God, this Lord, this love. Those who do so are dead to sin and dead to the worship of need. Instead they strive to find the glory of their poverty. A glory that shows forth that God and not they are at work. They strive to find the will of God and do it, knowing that while they are working at the Father’s side, nothing will be found lacking.