As people begin to fully realize that the pandemic isn’t going anywhere any time soon, a spirit of anxiety and restlessness is covering their hearts and homes. People are grieving the loss of the world that used to be, just as they are seeking to find their bearings in the world that’s happening today.
Surrounded by such uncertainty, what can we do? Where can anyone find peace?
For believers, their faith can provide helpful answers to such perplexing questions. It is precisely in the search for the meaning, purpose, and value of life that the message of Jesus Christ can find rich soil and produce an abundant spiritual harvest in the souls of people and societies.
It is in the distressingly bad news of a fallen world, and amidst the struggles of its darkness, that the Good News of the Lord Jesus can be fully seen and more broadly appreciated. And it is precisely the believer, empowered by the good news, who then becomes the instrument by which peace replaces anxiety and goodness triumphs over evil.
So, this is the paradox: the solutions believers desire are the very ones that they themselves help to bring about. There is no magic fairy dust, or quick answers, and no easy conclusions. There is only the battle in the heart and the good fight in a fallen world. Victory or defeat is determined by faith, and the tenacity and perseverance that it encourages and sustains.
As an example, in today’s Gospel Reading at Mass, the apostles are concerned about the crowd that is following the Lord. They are in a deserted place, it’s getting late, and it’s nearing a meal time. Attempting to care for the initial listeners, the apostles ask the Lord to dismiss the crowd, so that they can go to the local villages and find food.
In a shocking answer, the Lord Jesus tells the apostles: “Give them some food yourselves.” In a similar way, we can imagine asking the Lord Jesus to take away our pandemic, bring peace to our cities, calm the political tension, and bless us with tranquility. In reply, the Lord simply says, “Yes, good. Do it! Go and solve these problems.”
Such an imagined answer would be as disturbing to us, as the Lord’s answer was to the apostles. We can suspect the apostles might have thought, “What is he talking about? We don’t have that much food! We can’t solve this problem. This is too big for us!” And, perhaps, there were even some negative thoughts: “Why doesn’t he just feed them! We know he has the power. Why is he being so difficult?!”
Of course, such thoughts – any many others – pass through our minds and hearts as the Lord Jesus calls us to go and solve the problems of our day. Eventually, if we accept this commissioning, we are forced to ask: How? What’s the first step?
The apostles were no different. They scurried the scene and told the Lord, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” They meant the statement to be a declaration of defeat, but the Lord accepted what they offered, as small as it might have been. He blessed it, and then expanded their meager offering to unimaginable levels as he fed over five thousand people.
But what would have happened if the apostles didn’t respond and didn’t make their simple offering. What if, instead of responding, the apostles chose to wallow in self-pity, negativity, and defeatism, plagued by the thought: How can we feed over five thousand people?!
But the apostles did answer, with whatever doubts they may have had, and the Lord worked a miracle through them and their offering.
In our world today, as we struggle to preserve hope and find renewed purpose, we also have to find our own version of five loaves and two fish. The Lord calls us to present these offerings, whatever they might be, and however meager we might think they are. And the Lord Jesus will bless them and multiple them.
The Lord strengthens us to be instruments in solving the problems of our day. We can’t dismiss the summons. We can’t disregard our five loaves and two fish. The work is urgent and our task is at hand.
Follow Father Jeffrey Kirby on Twitter: @fatherkirby