Friday, June 4, 2010
This Sunday is the The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Solemnity) and appropriately this weeks reading is one of the most famous in the Bible.
It is from Luke 9:11-17 and describes the scene where Jesus was preaching and healing to a huge crowd of about five thousand men accompanied by an unknown number of women and children. Regardless of the total number - it was a lot of people. It was getting late and the twelve apostles asked Jesus to send the people away to get food and lodging. Very reasonable since they were in a remote location.
Then there was one of those moments in the Bible where "reason" gets turned on its head.
Jesus tells the apostles to give them something to eat.
It was a stunner. Totally impractical. Feed five thousand men plus an uncounted number of women and children? In a remote location? You can almost see the jaws drop!
I actually prefer the version in John 6:5-8 because it provides more of the details.
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
Totally unreasonable. You could almost see the apostles looking down and shaking their heads. Sure they had witnessed miracles before but it is easy to forget when you consider the odds.
But then it happened. Jesus had them sit in groups of fifty and fed them all! And there were leftovers. After everyone had eaten their fill, there were 12 baskets of broken pieces!
And that's the way with miracles - it doesn't consider the odds; it goes against all the odds.
It doesn't make sense that a simple wafer and a cup of wine can be transformed into the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. It doesn't make sense that by eating the precious body and blood of Christ that we somehow are transformed. But we are.
That's the way it is with miracles. And just like other miracles some people can see it and others can't.
Not to take away from this major point but I want to make sure we don't forget something else in this story - the boy.
In this male dominated society, it was a boy who offered his lunch to be shared. One of "the least" in this culture offering everything that he had - five small loaves and two small fish. Really a meager offering. A minor sacrifice. But it was everything he had and he offered it to Jesus. And because he did - the miracle happened.
I am going to fast forward you now to 1940 in Nazi occupied Poland. It was another time that reason had fled but replaced by hate and of madness.
Irena Senderlowa (commonly known as Irena Sendler) was witness to the Nazis herding the Jews into the ghettos and walling them off from the rest of the city. Irena realizing the terrible living conditions of these Jews obtained a fake identification and posed as a nurse to bring in food, clothing and medicine to those trapped in the Ghetto.
By 1942, Irena understood the deadly intentions of the Nazis. She joined the Polish underground, Zegota, and recruited 10 of her close friends (eventually the group would grow to 25) to rescue the Jewish children behind the wall.
This group would be credited with saving more than 2,500 Jews (most children). Most of these children wound up in Catholic convents, orphanages and homes with aliases to protect their identify. Irena recorded their true identities on small slips of papers in jars that she buried in her friend's garden in the hope of reuniting them with their families after the war.
But despite her daring and ingenuity, Irena was captured by the Nazis in 1943 and severely tortured but she never revealed her other co-conspirators or the location of the jars. There were a number of close calls during her captivity where Irena was almost killed but the resistance was finally able to bribe her way out. Even in hiding, Irena continued her rescue efforts.
After the war, Irena dug up the jars to try to reunite the children with their families but most of them were gone and the children were adopted by Polish families or went to Israel.
On 12 May 2008, Irena "the female Oskar Schindler" died at the age of 98.
Most of the people in Nazi-occupied territories tried to keep a low profile to survive. It simply did not make sense to try to resist the Nazis at the height of their power. They had the guns, the tanks, the network of informers. Most thought, "It is terrible what is happening to the Jews but it is unreasonable to ask me to risk my life for them."
From a world view, they are right. It doesn't make sense to risk your life to help a few other people. To risk everything for - strangers.
But God is not interested in "reason." God does not have a world view because he is not from this world.
And here is the kicker - God doesn't want us to either.
In the movie Star Wars, the character Han Solo says, "Never tell me the odds!" In a way, God feels the same.
The boy and the 5 small loaves and the 2 small fish; Irena Sendler and the Jewish children; Mother Theresa and the poor of Calcutta.
What's the connection? What's the point?
The odds don't matter. "Reason" does not matter. The only thing that matters is our willingness to offer whatever gifts we have to Jesus to do whatever he wants.
THEN miracles happen!