A Little Goes a Long Way by Rev. Paul Grankauskas
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, "This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves." (Jesus) said to them, "There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves." But they said to him, "Five loaves and two fish are all we have here." Then he said, "Bring them here to me," and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over - twelve wicker baskets full. Those who are were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.
God has a rather funny way of showing us that a little can go a long way.
A few days before writing this, I was eating dinner with some parishioners and discussing last-minute details regarding World Youth Day. I left early because of a pain in my side. Less than an hour later I was in the local emergency room feeling quite miserable. I was there until 3 a.m. The cause of my misfortune and discomfort? A kidney stone only a few millimeters in size, Like I said, a little goes a long way. This is true not just in mundane matters, but profound ways, too.
In this week's Gospel, Matthew recounts how Jesus fed a crowd of thousands with five loaves of bread and two fish. The disciples, who wanted to send the people to surrounding villages, must have been completely flabbergasted when they were asked to feed so many with so little. But, Our Lord takes what is there, blesses it, breaks the loaves and gives it to the people. It is more than enough to satisfy their needs. Again, a little goes a long way.
In John's Gospel, this miracle is recounted just before Jesus identifies Himself as the living bread come down from heaven. That Jesus blesses the loaves, breaks them and gives them to the crowd certainly gives this miracle a strong Eucharistic overtone. Perhaps we can also draw one other parallel as well.
During the Mass, simple gifts of bread and wine are brought forward by the people. This is a seemingly insignificant gift to offer to our all-powerful God. Yet when the words of consecration are spoken, these "insignificant" gifts become the sacrament of Our Lord's body and blood. Through the power of Christ's words and the work of the Holy Spirit, these simple gifts do indeed become a sacrifice pleasing and acceptable to God and they become our true and necessary spiritual food. A little goes a long way.
It seems to me the same can be said of prayer. On one occasion, Jesus instructed His disciples, "In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Mt 6:7-8) He proceeds to teach those same disciples the Our Father, a simple prayer that encompasses adoration, supplication, even contrition.
We need not be anxious about how we are to speak to God in prayer. It does not need to be complicated or verbose. We need only speak from the heart. If we are not quite sure what we ought to say, He has given us the words. We can be confident that God hears a simple prayer taught to us by His only Son.
A little can go a long way in terms of charity. Recall the praise Our Lord bestowed upon a poor widow who placed only a few coins in the Temple treasury. What may have been a pittance to some was clearly a great sacrifice for this woman. The love that went into that simple action did not go unnoticed by God.
Our Lord, when speaking of the corporal works of mercy, says as much about the good that we do to one another: "What you did for the least of my brothers, you did it for me." As one who had pity on the crowds gathered before Him and fed them with bread and fish, Our Lord notices our compassion - or lack of compassion - for those who are sick, imprisoned, hungry, thirsty, naked and homeless. A little bit of love can go a a long way when it comes to saving our souls.
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