We live in dire and difficult times. The uncertainty and insecurity of day-to-day living is great and no one can be impartial to this. Few among us can say that they are secure and that the crisis has no impact on them.
In my everyday contact with people I can tell that this uncertainty has left its mark on our relationships. Friendships fall apart, as do marriages. People are emigrating and moving. Every day there is a crisis somewhere, layoffs happen on a daily basis, factories are closing, businesses are going bankrupt. Conversely the costs of living are going up, taxes are unbearably high and there seems to be no light or clarity at the end of the tunnel.
Why is this the topic of today’s sermon, one might ask. We are well used, even immune if I may say so, to hearing words about the heavenly kingdom from the altar, so it must seem strange when we hear a homily on the hardships of this life.
But no matter how oriented and hopeful we are about the next life, we cannot bypass the problems of this one. Today’s Holy Gospel bears witness to this. The message is clear: he who is hungry cannot hear the word of God. A hungry man has no interest in anything.
Christ has just spent a very hard day. A multitude of people throngs about Him. He has taught and preached during the entire day. As compassionate as He always is, He has healed the sick, too. “And when it was evening, His disciples came to Him saying, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’ And they said to Him, ‘We have only five loaves and two fish.’” (Matthew 14:15-17) The Lord commands them to bring what they had before Him. “Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave to the multitudes. So they all ate and were filled and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children” (Matthew 14:19-21) as the holy apostle Matthew bears witness.
You may be having a difficult time connecting this parable with today’s crisis and today’s problems, however, the connection is very clear. Our Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ, knows our problems and necessities (Matthew 6:32) and He has created and given enough to each one of us. Unfortunately for us, only few among us know how to be content and live with what they have been given. From the many conversations I have had I gather that many of us are in big problems because we were not able to live according to the means that we have been given, but have rather undertaken aggressive and risky spending. In other words, many of us are living beyond our means. This is the root of all of our headaches.
The Lord teaches us to pray for our daily bread. In feeding a multitude of over five thousand with only five loaves and two fish, Christ did not try to make more than what He had, although He easily could have done so. The food that was available at the moment was enough to satisfy the hunger and all the needs of the people.
The word of God, the Holy Scripture, tells us to be content with what we have. “Let your conduct be without covetousness,” says St. Paul in his epistle to the Hebrews, “be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) He lives what he preaches. “I know how to be abased,” he says, “and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need,” (Philippians 4:12)
And on many other pages of the Holy Scripture we find and read what we already know, but never put to practice. “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6)
The Kingdom of God is within us (Luke 17:21) and so are our contentment and discontent, our happiness and unhappiness. If one knows how to find the right measure, he does not need much in order to be content and happy. But we often lose our sense of peace and calm in the pursuit of greater honor and wealth, we tremble and fret and have few opportunities for happiness and tranquility. This is why the wise Solomon, whose life experience exceeds that of any one of us and who had worldly possessions such as no man ever had, said, “Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith.” And King David says, “A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked.” (Psalm 37:16)
The Lord did not create us so that we should suffer. We invoke suffering upon ourselves. The Lord wants us to be joyful and happy with what He has given us. It is up to us to accept what He has given us with gratitude and to live our lives in peace and contentment.