Anyone who ever met Jesus was given the chance to change. This was true even at the end of his life when we have the reaction of the two thieves who were crucified with him. One recognized Jesus as an innocent man undeserving of such a cruel death. The other man saw Jesus as just another convict. Calvary transformed the life and death of one and left the other unchanged.
Throughout his ministry Jesus encountered men and women of all kinds. Some trusted him and were open to his love. These picked up their mats and walked, others saw themselves cleansed of leprosy, and others saw, others heard, others danced. All were changed; their lives would never be the same.
Others approached Jesus with caution and suspicion. Some saw him as a trickster, a fraud, a blasphemer. They left his presence unchanged; they were not transformed and remained hardened in the hearts.
Today’s gospel event can be understood in many ways. The first temptation Jesus faced after his fast of 40 days was to take stones and changed them into bread. Be a wonderworker that will attract the crowds that will get you followers. Jesus rejects the suggestion. “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” But he could have done it, change stones into bread. He had the power to do anything. We could take today’s gospel literally. Through his power five barley loaves and two fish would end up being more than enough to feed five thousand people.
I don’t think that’s the way Jesus did things. What Jesus said and did was meant to make a difference in people’s lives, in our lives. The men and women who followed Jesus out into the countryside were not dumb people. They knew enough to take something along with them to tide them over. He knew that too. His plan was to give them a lesson, not so much by words but by his example. After teaching what he wanted to teach he knew it was time to have something to eat. He had the people sit. It’s time to eat. What do we, myself and my disciples have five barley loaves and two fish. We’ll share the little we have with the people around us. The challenge to the people was, ‘are you willing to do the same?’ Will you share whatever you brought with those around you?
If Jesus chose to miraculously multiply the loaves and fishes and feed the five thousand it would have been a marvelous experience for all those people. They certainly would have been impressed. But would they have been changed? I think Jesus offered them an opportunity to think of the needs of others and share their bread with the hungry. Jesus offered them a lived experience of being neighbour to neighbour. I like to think all those good men and woman came away from that mountain quite different people from when they came from near and far to hear Jesus’ teachings.
How will our hearing today’s gospel change our lives. Will we leave this church unchanged, still caught up in our own worries and concerns, still thinking only of ourselves, still untouched by the struggles of the hungry, not of the world, but of our city? Or will we leave this church with a deeper appreciation of the needs of other, more determined to live this Mass outside these walls by a decision to remember the poor as we leave mass today, maybe moved to join those families who prepare casseroles for the Good Shepherd Centre each month, determined to bring some food to Mass on Sunday for our food collection, more willing to share the blessings with which our lives have been blessed.
One question that is asked of each of us is – what impact will my encounter with the sharing, the challenging Jesus have on how I live my life today and tomorrow and tomorrow?