It has so far been a long ride. When we first started out, few of us would have imagined reaching here, more than a year on, with the end we had hoped for not very near in sight. Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Lambda, Theta, Kappa, Eta, Hope. Our fuel tank is almost empty. Like the little boy in today’s passage whom Corrine May* sang of, peering into our lunch boxes today, we see very little left; just five loaves and two fishes.

On a better day when our tanks were full, we used these five loaves and two fishes to represent the little gifts and talents we have. We used them in our ministries offering them to Jesus knowing with a wonderful conviction that He will multiply and use them to evangelise. Today it is a struggle to keep that spirit and optimism to preach faith at a time when we feel our needs are more immediate.

We are gathered like the five thousand in today’s Gospel passage with a common hunger. We are gathered not physically, but in mind and emotions across the world. We are hungry to be comforted, hungry for our fears to be allayed, hungry for the uncertainty to go away. We keep going, with our vaccines racing with the variants. One humanity sharing one common energy: Hope.

We can only hope. We hope for the best. What is the basis of this ‘hope’? Hope, simply hoping is like the little boy’s lunchbox of five loaves and two fishes trying to feed five thousand. Hope must become the multiplication factor that feeds us.

We hold on to hope. Deep inside each of us, in the midst of our troubled emotions, hope has a voice. A faint voice which we are trying to listen to, like that crowd on the hillside seeking to understand. Corrine May sang, “Thousands were listening to the stories of one man. He spoke with such wisdom, even the kids could understand”.

“There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.” (Second Reading)

This is the wisdom. Our interconnectedness that makes us one people. The voice of hope is that of our Lord. We must identify this for ourselves and fully embrace him. Only then can we listen to this hope speak to us in a most personal way. Only then can hope transform into faith.

We are hoping for a miracle, that this pandemic is lifted from us. But the miracle that will happen will occur in our inner selves. Today’s passage calls us into this true hope and faith. We want to be lifted, not actually out of the pandemic but out of the gloom of poverty: the poverty of food, the poverty of peace and the poverty of love. This pandemic did not bring these upon us. It merely highlighted them.

We must allow this little boy to inspire us, by adopting his kidlike innocence. There are people around us who are hungry for both food and emotional comfort. People are beginning to suffer mental health issues. Like the little boy, we peek into our lunchbox to see what we can spare. Inside we see our perceived poverty. We hesitate to offer because what we can spare won’t make a meaningful contribution, or that we are not ready to offer emotional comfort. Most times we really don’t need to do the talking but to be there for someone just to offer company, and to listen.

People today are not asking for a basketful. Most will appreciate the reach out in time and love. We sing like the little boy, “I trust in you. So, take my five loaves and two fishes, do with it as you will. I surrender. Take my fears and my inhibitions, all my burdens, my ambitions; You can use it all. No gift is too small” (Corrine May). True hope is Christ, the multiplication factor.

Today may not be so much about spreading the Gospel, rather it is more about sharing it. If every little boy in us starts to do so, this pandemic will become for the world a baptism into new life, truly into one people, one humanity, one world.

*Corrine May Five Loaves and Two Fishes

Five Loaves and Two Fishes – Corrinne May (Illustrated) – YouTube

This is a copy of the mosaic tile at the Church of the Multiplication in Holy Land. It shows only four loaves, the fifth is the heavenly host, the Eucharist.

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time