Homily for Tuesday after Epiphany, 4 Jan 2022, Mk 6:34-44
“Are we to buy two hundred days’ wages worth of food and give it to them to eat?”
I have a feeling that it was Judas who said those words. He was the treasurer of the twelve and was probably worried about the sustainability of their mission.
Remember that other passage in John 12, 1-8, where Judas reacted to Mary of Bethany using up a whole liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard to give Jesus a foot massage? Judas said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and used for our charity work for the poor?” But the Gospel writer could not restrain himself from adding a little parenthetical remark, saying Judas “said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions.”
Even without sharing in John’s biased remark about Judas’ motive, it is enough to note the tone of sarcasm in the comment about spending two hundred days’ wages worth of food to be able to feed the multitude. What I read between the lines of that remark is, “Wait a minute, Jesus, you conducted a whole day of healing and preaching sessions and did not demand any payment for it; now you expect us to feed them too? Hey, they should be the ones feeding us, in the first place! How do you expect us to sustain our operations if we don’t charge for your services? We will go bankrupt pretty soon!”
The problem is, he made it very clear when he sent them out on a mission. He said, “Without cost you have received, without cost you are to give.” It is supposed to be the way of the kingdom; you don’t put limits and conditions to your giving. Generosity breeds generosity. Come to think of it, did our parents charge us anything for everything that they have done for us since childhood? Parents never say, “Ok, I feed you, clothe you, send you to school now, but you pay us later.”
Way until adulthood, they think of their children’s welfare. Some of them are willing to spend even the little money that they have saved for their retirement to bail out their adult children when they go through hard times. The way of the kingdom is the way of LOVE.
Our first reading says so. John says, we learn to “love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.” For John, the clearest sign that people have not known God is not having learned to love, because, he says, “God is love.”
And how do we learn to love? By being loved. For the apostle, our love for God is a mere response to God’s love for us. It is what he means when he says, “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us.”
Saint Ignatius composed a beautiful prayer for generosity. He said, “Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as I should. To give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds. To toil and not to seek for rest. To labor and ask not for reward, save that of knowing that I do your most holy will.”
Jesus had a simple formula for a situation of scarcity: No problem if five loaves and two fish are all we have. As long as we can still be thankful for it and are willing to break it, as long as we are willing to share it generously, God will make sure it will be more than enough for everyone, because he cannot be outdone in generosity.