Surrender our hungers

GOD’S WORD TODAY - Jonjee C. Sumpaico S.J. - The Philippine Star

The picture of the five loaves and two fish has been a very powerful image in the Christian tradition. It often points to the miracle that Jesus performed in the feeding of the thousands who were hungry as they listened to Jesus’ preaching and became witness to his wondrous work of healing.

The hungers of the people in the narrative represent the hungers that humanity does share. These are human hungers that are experienced even unto this day in our own place and time.

During the 5th Philippine Conference on New Evangelization held in Manila a few days ago, many people talked about the hungers that they experienced in life. These experienced hungers were described by the Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle as experiences that need to be deeply reflected upon. He was moved to tears upon listening to the stories and testimonials of people; both his heart and eyes were opened. There is a need to listen to the thirst and hunger of people for us to see the thirst and hunger that we ourselves have. The Cardinal emphasized that when “we are afraid to face our own hunger and thirst, that fear makes us shut off our eyes and our ears to see the thirst and hunger of other people.”

Many kinds of hungers were expressed in that conference – hungers that find themselves deeply rooted in our humanity. There is a hunger that wishes to share the good that is experienced. There is a hunger that one brings as one strives to achieve and carry the name of one’s country. There is a hunger to be accepted. And there are also hungers experienced by those who previously thought of themselves as full.

Hungers feed change. Peaceful change happens when we address the hungers that we see. Violent change happens when we turn a blind eye on the hungers that we witness to. It is in this light that we must look at the miracle in this Sunday’s reading. The Gospel shows us that the path to peace asks for a helpful attention to the hungers that people experience. This in turn brings about the miracle we need.

When faced with a multitude of hungry people, Jesus popped the question to his disciples: “where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?” Philip said it was impossible to afford feeding the people. Andrew mentioned that there was a small boy who only had five loaves and two fish. Jesus then asked the disciples to let the people sit down. He took the little that the boy had offered, gave thanks, and distributed the food that was there. It was through this act that the hunger of the crowd was addressed.

The miracle that Jesus performed began with attitudes. Jesus could not perform it if the disciple saw it to be impossible – if there was no faith. But even with a little belief in God’s providence a small offering becomes remarkable. This small offering may already be in itself our act of love.

Let us sit down for a while and reflect on how the small blessings that we have in life are given so we can offer them. Our small acts of love are the five loaves and two fish that we offer in our own time and place. We may also look into and acknowledge the hungers that we ourselves experience in the process. Most of all, we ask God to mercifully look at this human experience with much love and mercy. What God sees and receives is blessed, broken and shared!

Let us learn from Andrew and Philip. May our attitudes change from “it cannot be done” to “Thy will be done.” May we authentically look into the hungers of people, and with God’s help, do something about it. For in this moment of crisis that we see all over the world, offering even the little blessings that we have builds bridges and not walls. It encourages us to celebrate life and not curtail it.

The feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola will be celebrated in a few days: may his prayer of surrender help us become a more respectful and faithful nation. We share this prayer as we surrender our hungers.

“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,

my memory, my understanding,

and my entire will,

All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.

To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.

Give me only your love and your grace,

that is enough for me.”

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