I’ve mentioned before that, as a chef, this was always one of my favorite Gospels. I mean, can you imagine if we could’ve had Jesus here at the last Spaghetti Dinner the Knights of Columbus put together? The one where more people came than we anticipated so that we still had people streaming in the door while we were waiting for one of the guys to get back from Giant Eagle with more spaghetti so we could cook it. Those are the times I wish I could be like Jesus and say a blessing over the remaining food and miraculously the would be enough for everyone who was hungry to have something to eat AND there would be some left over besides.
I always wonder what happened to those leftovers in the Gospel story. This account of the feeding of the 5000 appears in each of the four Gospels but none of them tell us, so we are left to imagine what became of them.
Did they give them to the poor?
There were twelve baskets, maybe each of the Apostles took one home?
Or maybe they sold them. Judas probably would’ve looked at them as pure profit since they got them for free.
Personally, I think that they probably gave each person a little bit to take with them for their journey home.
How did you like the little “test” that Jesus gave to Phillip before he fed all the people? Jesus saw the large crowd coming toward them and said to Philip “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” Philip answered that 200 days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.”
When God looks down on the world today and sees hungry, starving people, do you think he tests us, like Philip, saying: “Where are we going to get food for them to eat?” When he knows all along that there’s plenty for everyone.
Well, there are some people in our world today that would answer: “FOOD! They don’t need food! They need more and better contraceptives and access to abortions. The problem is there’s too many people out there and they’re a drain on the world’s, and our, resources.”
We get this subtle, almost subliminal, message all the time. “There’s too many people!” From Planned Parenthood, to Zero Population Growth (who, by the way, was picketing Wal-Mart last week because they weren’t going to stock a certain kind of contraceptive - “But where are the poor women going to get their contraceptives!”) Even groups like the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Federation. They don’t get it. The poor don’t want contraceptives, they want FOOD, they want WORK.
Last year my wife Chris, and my brother and I were having some ribs down at the Crafton Rotary rib -fest in Crafton Park and there were people at our table were talking about the “wonderful rainforest exhibit at the Cleveland Zoo.” One of the women made a casual remark about a sign that was installed at the exhibit that showed how much of the rainforest was being destroyed every day and it said something to the effect that the percentage of deforestation was equal to the percentage of population growth in the world. She went on to say something about how horrible that was and how everyone should go to see that exhibit so they could realize how rampant population growth, if left unchecked, was going to lead to the destruction of our world. My brother and I looked at each other at the same time. We tried to explain that just because the rainforest was disappearing at the same percentage rate as world population growth, doesn’t mean that one has any real effect on the other. Anyone who had a high school statistics course could verify that. We tried to explain that, in Brazil for instance, the destruction of the rainforest has more to do with the fact that about 340 wealthy landowners own more land than 2.5 million poor peasant farmers; these 340 people own 60% of Brazil’s farmable land. And half of that land lies idle. The other half is becoming more and more mechanized, thanks to government subsidies and due to the fear of the land moguls of an uprising by the more than 12 million rural day workers. Those folks are left to compete for fewer and fewer jobs forcing them burn parts of the forest in order to survive. But she wouldn’t be swayed. The population control people had done their job well.
The fact of the matter is, studies show that the world today produces enough grain to provide every human on the planet with 3,600 calories a day. That’s enough to make most people fat! And here’s the kicker - that estimate doesn’t even count the many other commonly eaten foods - vegetables, beans, nuts, root crops, fruits, grass-fed meats, and fish! Over the past 25 years, food production has run ahead of world population growth by abour 16%.
There is no good reason for for any human in the world today to be hungry or starving. John’s gospel today doesn’t record it, but the other three gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all have the disciples telling Jesus that he should send the huge crowd off to fend for themselves before it got dark, and Jesus tells them “YOU GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO EAT!” And I think that’s the lesson for us today.
What can we do? Well, first of all, whenever we hear someone giving the tired argument that there are just too many people in the world, we should let them know better. It’s not a popular position, that’s why we don’t see the rebuttals in the news very often, but it’s the truth. And the facts are out there in anyone would just take the time to look ‘em up. It would be wrong to let these people continue their propaganda without speaking up.
Second, we can start here at home. The first Sunday of every month the St. Vincent DePaul Society collects food at the doors of the church that they distribute to those in need. How many cans or boxes of food do we have on our shelves at home sitting for weeks or months at a time? Would we miss the extra buck or two at the supermarket every week if we bought a couple of cans of vegetables or gravy when they’re on sale and brought them here on the first of the month?
Third, we don’t have to do it alone. Organizations like the Ladies Guild and the Knights of Columbus take much of the money they raise and donate it to various worthy causes. And don’t forget RENEW 2000. Many of those small communities of faith go beyond fellowship and faith sharing into putting their faith into concrete acts of charity and service.
Its so easy to push the poor out of our minds. On July 10 the papers told us that almost 300 people were killed in a place call Payatas, in the Philipines. Payatas literally means: “the Promised Land.” Do any of you remember it? It happened three weeks ago. The “Promised Land” is a giant garbage dump with mounds of trash higher than Rivers Stadium. These people lived in the shadow of it and eked out a living rooting through the garbage looking for things they could salvage and sell so they could eat. There was an avalanche and a fire. 300 dead. Over 3,000 evacuees.
Last Tuesday 110 people died when a Super Sonic jet crash on take-off. Another tragedy to be sure. I don’t want to make light of 110 lives., But were those lives any more important than the 300 lives lost in the garbage slide? Which tragedy do we read about day after day? Which one would have been more easily preventible?