Isaiah 55: 1-3; Psalm 145, R. (cf. 16) The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.; Romans 8: 35, 37-39; Gospel: Matthew 14: 13-21
There is grace in crisis. Time and again we have seen this, in individuals, in families, in organizations and in nations.
We saw how nations rise to heroism in times of crisis. Dr. O. D. Corpuz, in “The Roots of the Filipino Nation,” wrote about the late 19th-century Philippine revolution that “a more heroic age has not been seen in our history,” when both the rich and the poor “placed their lives in danger a thousand times” for the sake of freedom.
Whether one is yellow, loyalist, DDS or nonaligned, there is no denying that the heroism of millions who braved the campaign trail for the 1986 snap elections, found their voice in the ballot, safeguarded this new expression of freedom and risked their lives facing tanks and soldiers on Edsa did happen.
I have been with ABS-CBN in various capacities since 2005, and I have seen them go through crises. My observation, which I shared on several occasions, is the network is at its best during these moments. Always.
We saw this in ourselves most recently in this continuing lockdown, when we were completely cut off from one another and the world came to a halt. Amid so much uncertainty, anxiety and fear, we dug deep into our core and rediscovered the things that mattered, the essentials.
Many turned to prayer and a deeper spirituality. They saw how acts and words of kindness, how sharing words of consolation and doing good remain innate in many of us.
There is grace in crisis.
This is the story of this Sunday’s Gospel. In the midst of crisis, the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish takes place. All miracles happen in a moment of crisis.
The gathering of the people who followed Christ on foot was itself a crisis. It was the crisis of the human longing for healing and meaning, the people’s search for someone who understood them and spoke to their needs, to their very heart and soul.
This crisis evoked the first and the most fundamental miracle in the story. “When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.” It is the constant miracle of our faith, God’s mercy, compassion and love.
The second miracle is the multiplication of the loaves and fish. Again, it was precipitated by a crisis. It is late. The people, who are so many, are hungry and there is no food. Jesus and his disciples go back and forth discussing (send them home, feed them, we can’t) and thus heightening the crisis.
In the midst of this crisis, the miracle takes place. Someone brings five loaves and two fish. The miracle is when someone steps forward, in her poverty and want, and brings this to Jesus. Unless someone brings this poverty to the Lord, the miracle will not take place.
The existential crisis here is the meeting point where human capacity and power end, and divine grace takes over. It is not a deus ex machina moment, but a moment of deep transformation.
In today’s Gospel, we see or prefigure the “greatest of all miracles.” In receiving the poverty of what is humanly possible, Jesus took, looked up to heaven and blessed, broke and gave—the miracle of the Eucharist, the Mass.
“Do this in remembrance of me”—remembering how in his final moments on earth, he takes his life to its completion of mission in his Agony, Passion and Cross.
Let us reflect on this and see how this miracle impacts our life, the crisis of struggling to be faithful to mission.
Greek novelist Nikos Kazantzakis, in his 1952 novel “The Last Temptation of Christ,” beautifully portrays this. In his Agony, Passion and Cross there was always that “last temptation” in Jesus to give it all up or to be faithful to His call and mission; to not do evil, but to live a normal, quiet and even a good life with a family, a job, etc.
It was a temptation, if you wish, between good and the greater good; between a life for the glory of God and for the greater glory of God; between being steady and functioning, and giving oneself totally to the mission, totus ad laborem, in omnibus amare et servire.
On the Cross, we heard the cry of Jesus: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This was a cry of despair and an expression of hope.
Hope as response to despair
The renowned French philosopher and leading Christian existentialist Gabriel Marcel points out that hope is a response to despair. It is hope that keeps us faithful, a hope that guarantees fidelity as it defeats despair.
Jesus overcomes his temptation and despair and the “miracle” of our salvation in and through the Cross and Resurrection is in our midst, available to us “for the taking.” We remember it at every Mass we celebrate.
In the midst of our human experience—the pandemic, the uncertainties and fears, the divisions and turmoil—and the pain and suffering it brings, more and more people now bring their “five loaves and two fish” to the Lord.
This Sunday’s Gospel assures us that the miracle will take place. It always took place in many moments in the journey, when heroes and martyrs rose to the occasion.
We saw it in the generosity and selflessness of the front-liners and first responders. And we are seeing it now as more and more people rise to the occasion, yes, to overcome the pandemic, but also to thwart the distractions and self-serving moves of others that prevent us from healing as one and from truly being one.
There is grace in crisis. I would like to think the grace in this crisis now is we can be a Church again, a Church for the poor, one that strives to be God’s Kingdom in our midst: justice and equality, faith and hope, joy and peace, compassion and love.
There is grace in crisis. I believe we are remembering once more, slowly, our moments as a people and as a nation when heroism inspired many to lead and to follow toward the path of greater freedom and to freely and democratically build a society of truth and integrity, justice and equality, faith and hope, joy and peace, compassion and love—a society that reflects the Kingdom of God for all.
There is grace in crisis. Miracles take place in the midst of crisis. Always. —CONTRIBUTED