What Do You Have? Living the Multiplication of the Loaves Today

Barb Wire

During his earthly ministry, Jesus called his disciples to live differently. He knew what was in store for Him – and for all who followed after Him. He called them to shine their lights in a world of darkness – and to live in integrity. He also invited them to cultivate an attitude of generosity and gratitude.

He invites us to do the same.

Jesus is alive! he has been raised from the dead and continues his ministry in us and through us, if we fully embrace the truth of what it means to live our lives in Him. To live in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world. He continues to work miracles.

“Jesus said to his disciples, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.” He also told them, “Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you. To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Mk. 4:21-25)

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The last line unfolds its deeper meaning as I grow older. I am really beginning to understand what seemed enigmatic when I was a young man. “To the one who has – more will be given; from the one who has not – even what he has will be taken away.”  It is a matter of the heart, in the Biblical sense of the word. Do we live our lives focused on our lack – or do we understand the gift we have received in Jesus Christ?

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Brothers and sisters: As God is faithful, our word to you is not “yes” and “no.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was proclaimed to you by us, Silvanus and Timothy and me, was not “yes” and “no, ” but “yes” has been in him. For however many are the promises of God, their Yes is in him; therefore, the Amen from us also goes through him to God for glory.” (2 Corinthians 1:18-22)

Jesus is the Yes of God. In Him we have everything we need – and so much more to give away.
Over the years I have tried to help explain the kernel of the liberating truth found in this one line of scripture to people. One phrase I use is “living in the economy of heavenly scale”. One Gospel account which helps to introduce us to this economy of heavenly scale is the feeding of the five thousand.

It is recorded in all four Gospel accounts, underscoring its importance. (See, Mk 6:30-44, Mt. 13:14-21, Luke 9: 10-17, Jn 6:5-13). However, let me use Marks account (Mk. 6:30-44) and reflect on the lessons it offers us in learning to live lives of gratitude and generosity.

Be Freed from Self Love
“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.” (Mk. 6:30)

The focus of the disciples in this profoundly important encounter was on themselves and accomplishments in their ministry. This kind of focus on self is the antithesis of an authentic spiritual life. Though some contemporary versions of religion attempt to figuratively baptize it, it is not the path to self-fulfillment but to the loss of one’s soul.

Jesus said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own self in the process?”

These men had traveled with Jesus. They knew who He was. Yet, they clearly had not yet come to grasp the implications of their relationship with Him. They had seen, perhaps with their eyes, but not yet with their hearts.

Learn to See Others
“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place, and get some rest.” (Mk. 6:31)

Jesus focused on the disciples and identified with their need. He invited them to come with him into a new way of viewing themselves, their lives and their mission. This takes new vision, the eyes of living faith, turned off of ourselves and seeing others now in His light.

Compassion: Learn to Suffer With
“So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.” (Mk. 6:32- 34)

Jesus is moved with compassion (to “suffer with“, in the Greek), his attitude is always redemptive. His first act of love is to TEACH them. The disciples did not understand who they were or who Jesus was. This lack is their greatest poverty.

Never Send Them Away
“By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” (Mk. 6:35, 36)

Again the disciples focus is on themselves and not the ones for whom Jesus had gathered them together. Their notion of meeting the poverty of the people is to send them away to take care of themselves.

Learn to Live Redemptively
“But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” (Mk. 6:37)

Jesus invites the disciples into a fresh new way of thinking and living – a life of participation – through embracing His redemptive mission. Their eyes, hearts and minds were not yet opened and they do not understand. They have an accounting model- a model based on scarcity and not provision, lack and not leveraged love.

Answer the Question: What do you have?
“How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five–and two fish.” (Mk. 6:38)

The invitation continues. He asks them to give what they have – and in that gift they begin to participate in His mission. By accepting his invitation to live the freely given sacrifice of a surrendered life of love. It is in that gift of self that they come to discover how to bear the fruit that such a surrendered life of discipleship bears. Then they become “sons in the Son” and the Lord continues His work through them.

Mediation and Multiplication
“Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand. ” (Mk. 6:39-44)

Jesus uses the matter given by men to manifest the manna of heaven. It is in the breaking (of both the disciples’ self-centeredness and the bread of their personal sacrifice) that both the manifestation and the multiplication occur.

Here is where the leverage of love and the economy of heavenly scale are demonstrated so well. The invitation into the mission of Jesus is to be embraced freely by men and women whose eyes are opened. (See, e.g., Luke 24:30) Living faith opens our eyes to see everything differently because of Jesus Christ.

Understand About the Loaves

“Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.” (Mk. 6:45-52)

Here the divine connection is being made between “being” and “doing” — they had not understood about the loaves.  It was because of that lack of understanding that they succumbed to fear. They were unable to navigate the waters of their lives. Once again, the Lord heard the cry of the poor as it issued from the mouths of his own disciples and He spoke these beautiful words:  “It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

What Do We Have?
We have everything because we have Jesus Christ. We are called to live lives of gratitude and generosity, and thereby reveal Jesus Christ as a gift to others. He is the Bread of Life. He is the Yes of God.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Deacon Keith Fournier
Deacon Keith Fournier is Founder and Chairman of the Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance, which are dedicated to the conversion of culture through four pillars of participation; life, family, freedom and solidarity. He is the Editor-in-Chief at Catholic Online. He is a constitutional lawyer who appeared in four cases before the United States Supreme Court on Pro-Life, Religious Freedom and Pro-family issues. He is the author of eight books on Christian living, Christian family and public policy issues. Deacon Fournier is a member of the Clergy of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia. He holds his BA in theology and philosophy from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, his Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Theology from the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University (MTS), his Juris Doctor Law Degree Law (JD) from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and is a PhD candidate in Moral Theology at the Catholic University.

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