“Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets” (John 6.11-13)
Give me some love!
“What would you say to a five year old child who asks you ‘Why did God let my dad die?'” This was the question which a mother once asked me. She had just lost her husband one week before.
I did not know what to say. “What did you tell him”, I stammered.
She had tears in her eyes when she answered. “I only told him what God suggested at that moment. And which I still believe to be true. I hugged him tight and told him, ‘I do not know why God took your dad so early with Him. But I know one thing, that I love you very much and that I want to help you become a man. And I also know that unless God and your dad remain constantly besides me, I will not be able to make it!”
A woman who has just lost her husband. A child who has just lost her father.
Another story. Another true story. It is actually a letter a girl from Genoa, Italy wrote:
“My father drinks a lot because he has no job. My mother goes out in the evening and many times does not come back home at night. So they put me in a home. The only ‘person’ who loves me is a small little red fish which I keep in a glass container always ear me, even when I sleep at night.
The responsible of this Home has told me that I cannot keep my small little red fish any more and so at night I sleep with the container tied to my finger with a string because I am afraid that on waking up I shall not find my small red fish any more.
Please help me so that they will not take away my small little red fish because if they take away my red fish, I shall have no one to love me….”
A mother who has just lost her husband. A boy who has just lost his father. A girl whose only companion is a small red fish.
Two powerful and simple stories. Intense.. because they are true stories of true people. They illustrate the hunger which exists within us. A hunger which cannot be satisfied with a cheeseburger and a coke and French fries.
John 6 speaks of Jesus feeding five thousand people. Is He just a big MacDonald? Or there is more to it than simply filling the stomach? It is significant that the evangelist does not speak of a miracle, an extraordinary event which underscores the compassion and power of Jesus but uses the word ‘sign’. A sign refers always to a deeper reality.
These five thousand people are inside us! There is a very deep and extreme hunger within us for love, for affection. We can live without cookies but we cannot live without love.
This week a parishioner asked me whether she could speak with me for a moment. “Yes, of course”, I answered. And there she was sharing with me how her marriage, 35 years together, and now there is ‘no romance, no intimacy, no emotion… Father, I need these things!’ she uttered with such an emotional tone.
Raoul Follereau speaks about the story of the dwarf. “An everyday story. The mother says to her child : “Look, darling, look at that small dwarf! He is so funny!” And the child ” Dwarf, dwarf, I am taller than you! Dwarf, dwarf, your head is so big. Dwarf, dwarf I can outrun you…” And the dwarf just lowers his head and runs away.
And so every day. For many years.
In his heart there was no hatred. He just wanted to be normal, like everyone else. But he was not normal. He was a dwarf.
“Dwarf, dwarf…” he heard all day long. “Dwarf, dwarf …” he dreamt all night.
And so one day he wanted to sleep, to forget…
He hung himself!”
This enormous hunger is gigantic. Five thousand men… This is what keeps us going. The real reason of all our actions is this drive to satisfy this hunger for love. This is why a man and a woman get married. This is why they make a child. This is why we decorate our house. This is why we make money. This is why we study to get a degree in college. This is why we dress, why we cook, why we take a vacation…
I was impressed this week reading an article on the people who lost their life tragically on the Concorde in Paris. “Two recent retirees, Rolf and Doris Madry, 68 and 64, had saved for years from their post office salaries to afford the trip they had long dreamed of… There was 71-year-old Fritz Schmidt from Isernhagen who worked as a cabinet maker. A neighbor recalled the last time he saw him : “He left with two suitcases at 8.30am and said ‘I’ll be gone eight weeks. I need to enjoy myself a bit”.”
The way out is the way in
The problem is one. We can never be loved enough. Let me repeat it. We can NEVER be loved enough. This desire inside us is limitless, unremitting.
Jesus asks Philip a very revealing question, “Where are we to buy bread for the people to eat?” Philip makes the same mistake we always do. He looked at himself. He dug inside himself. It is impossible, he says. “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” He was right!
Andrew takes a different approach, He looks around him. “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” But this is too little, obviously!
We also try to find a solution to this existential problem by looking around us.. perhaps a woman, a child, a savings account, a cottage, a cruise, a new computer, an I don’t-know-what… But we soon realize to our dismay that these do not go far enough to feed the five thousand inside us!
We cannot make it. BUT HE CAN! He tells the five thousand to sit down and “then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish…” He can not only fill us. He can swamp us! “When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.”
This is what all the Saints realized. He can satisfy this unlimited hunger within us, this craving to be loved beyond any extent. Jesus Christ is a such a tremendous Lover.
And as the Pope was saying just this morning, Sunday July 30, 2000 in his Angelus Message, “The Church incessantly offers Christ, the only Redeemer of humanity… In fact, only in Christ, and the Church does not tire of repeating it, especially in this Jubilee Year, can human beings find the real and full meaning of their existence. Therefore, Christianity cannot be reduced to a doctrine, or simple principles, because Christ, the center of Christianity, is alive, and his presence is the event that constantly renews the human creature and the cosmos. This truth of Christ is vigorously proclaimed today…”
He is alive. He is real. He can do it for you!
“What really matters in life is that we love Christ and are loved by him in return. In comparison with the love of Jesus, everything else is secondary. And without the love of Jesus, everything else is useless.” Pope John Paul II
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.