Why even bother?
I am sure we all have those days where we ask ourselves why do we even bother?
Today the Gospel offered the story of the loaves and fishes. This miracle is the only miracle which is repeated in all four of the Gospels in the Bible. It was refreshing to hear the priest at Mass remind us that in ministry we are not called to feed the 5000 or even the 50,000. This is far beyond our capacity. We are called to try but to know and acknowledge that we are completely and utterly dependent on God to do this. Time after time, the Lord puts us in positions where we are completely helpless or out of our depth: a sick relative or friend, a tragic death, a broken relationship. The world gives fame, and the world takes it away. We are rich today and poor tomorrow. We have a job and then we don’t. We are healthy and then cancer strikes. We have a happy family and then it seems to fall apart. Our friends say they are there for us and then they let us down. And then we ask: ‘why do I bother?’ Why bother praying for a miracle when the odds are so stacked against us? Why bother when what I do is merely a drop in the ocean which just mingles with everything else? Why bother when it seems that we get knocked down, get up and get knocked down again? Why bother?
Miracles seem to happen in situations of scarcity rather than plenty. Why? Because where there is plenty there is no need of miracles! We need to be aware of our own poverty to realise the riches we already have and that we can receive.
However, the fact that something is impossible is no excuse for not trying to do it. All too often we conclude that something can’t be done so we don’t bother trying to do it. You can’t blame the disciples who probably wanted some rest and to spend some quality time with Jesus. When they are confronted by a multitude of people to feed, it is understandable that they try and take the easy way out, that is, to send them away. But Jesus is having none of that. Another Gospel writer speaks of a young boy presenting the barley loaves and fishes to the disciples. Why did the boy even bother to offer what he had? After all, what was this tiny quantity in comparison to the huge crowd which necessitated feeding? Donagh O’ Shea, OP, writes that "this was the cheapest kind of bread; in fact barley was really considered animal-feed. It is only the very poor who would eat barley loaves. Being poor can have one of two effects: it can turn people in on themselves, filling them with resentment and self-pity; or it can turn them outwards to a real experience of God’s Providence. Poverty can break people’s spirit, that is why it is so urgent to fight against it. But equally, or more so, riches can destroy the human spirit, muffling it against reality and against God."
As we begin a New Year, the resolutions have already begun and maybe even discarded by some at this stage. We all seek motivation, we seek a reason ‘to bother’. Motivation is literally the desire to do things. It's the difference between waking up before dawn to pound the pavement and lazing around the house all day. It’s the difference between being for Christ or against Christ. In this season of Christmas, we celebrate ‘littleness’, ‘small things’. The Word becomes flesh through a small and helpless child. We celebrate a Father who bothered, even though mankind was so fallen and caught up in itself that it saw no need for a Saviour. The Father broke through our brokenness and now makes us disciples of the Incarnation mystery. So even if we feel like the disciples and we want to send those around us away, the Lord will ask us to ‘give them something to eat’. We are called to move out of ourselves and towards others, even when it costs us. Even when we are miserable, entirely spent, and have nothing left to offer, when we find prayer difficult, when God seems very far away; He will continue to ask us to give of ourselves and He gives us his abundant mercy and love.
It is called TRUST. It is called HOPE. It is called FAITH. It is called UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.
God will give you whatever you need in order to do his will. And he will do it . . .
In his own time,
In his own way,
According to his own will.
Quoting Fr. Donagh once more: “Here is a rule of thumb: if you want a miracle, give something away, to make room for it!” God will never reject whatever gift you can offer Him. Here’s to a 2014 of miracles!
Sr. M. Louise