Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand in Mt 4:13-21 gives us an insight into how He responds to human helplessness, those moments when we feel overwhelmed by our personal and societal circumstances.
Firstly, by His humanity, Jesus indeed freely chose to experience and share in our helplessness. He “withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by Himself” after He heard of the brutal beheading of His beloved precursor, St. John the Baptist. We can only imagine the sorrow in His heart even though He could easily have prevented the capture and murder of St. John. It is the same sorrow that He had at the death of His beloved friend Lazarus in Lk 11:1-44 when He could have come earlier and prevented his death.
In His humanity, He feels the pain of the crowd that sought Him, “following Him on foot from their towns.” Though they had intruded on His planned solitude, “His heart was moved with pity for them and He cured their sick.” In His humanity, He welcomes us in our helplessness and He always looks at us with pity and compassion. Indeed, “He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”(Ps 103:14)
Secondly, in His divinity He asks them to come to Him, bringing with them all that makes them feel helpless, “Bring them here to me.” The disciples had earlier sensed their helplessness in the face of the mammoth crowd before them and they wanted Him to deliver them from this helpless situation, “Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus does not remove the cause of this helplessness.
Jesus responds in His divinity by making a triple invitation to them: Come, Offer, and Receive. He invites them to come to Him with everything, offer all that they had to Him, and then receive all that He offered to them. The disciples responded to this invitation, coming to Him and offering to Him their meagre five loaves and two fish and they received from Him both His instructions and multiplied loaves. The crowds “all ate and were satisfied” to show us that it is not what we have but what Jesus offers to us after our complete surrender to Him that sustains and satisfies us in our helplessness.
God offers the same invitation to the helpless Israelite exiles returning to devastated Jerusalem. God invites them to come back to Him and not just to return their homeland, “All you who are thirsty, come to the water.” They have no excuse not to come to Him and receive all that He is offering to them, “You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk.” Their only hope to triumph over their helpless situation is to receive God’s words and gifts, “Come to me heedfully, listen that you may have life.”
St. Paul lists things that are sure to leave us helpless in this life: “Anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword.” Because these things cannot separate us from the love of Christ, we are assured that “in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through Him who loved us.” We are conquerors in Him alone and not in ourselves as long as we come to Him and receive the pure gift of His love.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Covid-19 has brought a heightened state of helplessness to our life, Church, and world. We already have that helpless feeling that come from our personal struggles and challenges, strained relationships with loved ones, past wounds and failures, etc. Now we also have no control over this virus and how it may impact our future. We are further rendered helpless in the face of the many contradicting information and statistics about this virus.
Sadly, we can respond to this helplessness by distancing ourselves from Jesus and justifying this by claiming that we are not holy or good enough to come to Him. We can also respond by hiding behind the many excuses that we make up for our helplessness like the disciples who said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late.” We can also respond to human helplessness by blaming God, our situations, and other people for our helplessness. Even many Catholic clergy and laity today blame Vatican II and the Novus Ordo Mass today for the pathetic situation in the Church and in the world? These are inappropriate responses to human helplessness.
God has given us a remedy for our helplessness in the Eucharistic presence of Jesus Christ in our Churches. It is in the Eucharist that we have access to both the humanity and divinity of Christ Jesus and are brought into communion with divinity through His human flesh. This is the same humanity of Christ that is ever compassionate to our miserable situation. This is that same divinity that lovingly invites us to come to Him without excuses, offer all to Him, and receive all that He offers to us.
Coming to Him in the Eucharist, we also come to Him with confidence that we will not be rejected. It is in the Eucharist that Jesus assures us, “All the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out.”(Jn 6:37) We also come to Him with the intention of offering and surrendering all to Him and leaving it all in His hands. This will allow Him to transform the things behind our helplessness into something life-giving to us and to the Body of Christ. Then we must open our hearts to receive all and refuse nothing that He offers to us, especially His love, truth, and grace.
We need to heed God’s eucharistic invitation today to come to Him, offer to Him and receive from Him. That is why it is imperative that the faithful have unhindered access to the Eucharist always, especially as the world continues to struggle with the Covid-19 virus. Our helpless situation may not be completely remedied and things may never return to normal as before. But what we receive from coming to our Eucharistic Lord and offering all to Him will sustain and satisfy us.
At the wedding of Cana, Mama Mary saw that familiar helplessness in the faces of the servants when they ran out of wine. She led them to Jesus and instructed them to listen and offer to Him the water-filled jars that Jesus demanded and so receive the abundance of new wine that Jesus was offering.
Mama Mary still looks at us with pity in our various forms of helplessness. Can we let her also lead us to Jesus her Son in the Eucharist and teach us to surrender all to Him and receive what He offers to us? If we let her do so, we will know for certain that it is not what we have but what Jesus offers to us after our surrender to Him that alone sustains and satisfies us.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!