Value Your Faithful Offerings

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

I’d like to share with you an unusual thought experiment, then a couple of experiences from the real world, and finally a gospel reflection to encourage you in your life with Jesus Christ. Imagine if you woke up on Monday morning and all of your shoes were missing; your dress shoes, sneakers, sandals, and slippers – all gone. Somehow you understand that you’re not being pranked and you haven’t been robbed; your shoes have simply vanished. And amazingly, the mystery of how or why this has occurred doesn’t bother you. Your concern is how you’re going to get through your day without shoes. So what would you do?

As long as you’re not planning to leave the house, you’re fine. But what about the next day, or the day after that? What would happen if you showed up at your workplace barefoot? You could drive someplace to buy new shoes, but what if the store has a strict “no shoes, no service” policy? Maybe you could borrow someone else’s shoes, or ask somebody to go shopping and pick up a pair in your size on your behalf. If all else failed, you might resort to creatively wrapping your feet using materials at hand, or go online and order shoes to be shipped to you overnight. Whatever steps you would choose to take, your life would be disrupted by the simple disappearance of your humble, ordinary, everyday shoes. Even if you’re a person who loves shoes, you probably don’t think about them all that much. You take this blessing for granted.

A while back, the microwave oven in my rectory stopped working. And when it broke I discovered how much I relied upon it. After my refrigerator and sink, the microwave is the most useful appliance in my kitchen. On more than one occasion, I’d take some food out of the cupboard or the fridge, pour it into a bowl or put it on a plate, turn to use the microwave and remember, “Oh yeah, it’s broken. Now what do I do?” Buying my replacement microwave (for like $15 used) was a purchase whose value far exceeded its price.

Have you ever had a co-worker go on vacation, or take some family or medical leave, or quit to begin another job elsewhere, and then experienced how very essential your missing coworker was? When you have to pick up all the slack of a productive peer, you realize how much they were carrying and the difference that they were making. Shoes, microwave ovens, and the people around us have a greater impact on our world than we may realize.

Five Loaves and Two FishIn today’s gospel, Andrew the brother of Simon Peter sees the hungry crowd of thousands and says to Jesus, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Andrew is discouraged and despairing. He has located some food – five loaves and two fish, and if they’re for sale he perhaps has enough coins on his person to purchase them. “But what good are these for so many?” Does what Andrew has to offer really matter? Will it make any real difference?

Jesus takes the loaves he’s offered, praises and thanks his Father, then distributes the loaves and fishes to the crowd as much as they desire. Afterwards, when the leftover bread fragments are collected, they fill twelve wicker baskets full. It wasn’t that Jesus simply inspired the crowds to share with one another – you don’t carry someone off to become your king merely for encouraging sharing. The people recognized a miracle had occurred, like in our first reading’s story about the Prophet Elisha. Andrew presents Jesus what little he has to offer and, with this simple gift, Jesus does something amazing. He can do the same with us.

When a priest causes grave scandal or a family falls apart, we witness the devastating fallout of sin. If such failures cause great harm – and they do – consider how much blessedness comes from our daily faithfulness. It is our five loaves and two fish placed into Jesus’ hands. So do not doubt that your humble, ordinary, everyday faithfulness to Christ is doing more good than you know.

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