When they were with Jesus, the apostles were constantly learning from everything He said and did. As the God/man Himself, He taught them about God and showed them the way of life that would bring them into union with God. He showed them amazing and wonderful things (such as the many healings they witnessed). He also showed them the necessity to trust in His providence, as we see in this miracle today. He took 5 small loaves of bread and two small fishes and with this fed 5000 men (along with the women and children who were there). After this there were 12 baskets full of remnants from this miraculous meal. All this from a small and insufficient beginning.
This miraculous meal is only a type and an image of the heavenly banquet that later He laid before the disciples and which He continues to lay before us today. This is the banquet of His most holy Body and His precious Blood. We begin to prepare this banquet with just 5 small loaves of bread and a cup of wine. From these breads we select the finest of the loaves and then cut out the center of that loaf. This is the best of the best of the best of the bread. We then bring these offerings to the Holy Table where we pray for the intervention of the Holy Spirit to make these into His own Body and Blood. Now this bread could be the best bread ever baked in the whole world and this wine could be the most exquisite vintage ever produced – but in the end it is still bread and wine. There is nothing that we could ever do of ourselves to change them into the Body and Blood of Christ. These gifts could never be perfect enough or even remotely sufficient to impart to us the life giving and transfiguring divine grace of God. But still we offer them to God as the best that we have. He takes our insufficient and inadequate gifts and makes them perfect, and changes them into the life giving Holy Mysteries and then returns them to us so that we might partake of the Divine grace. We offer to Him the works of our hands – the fruit of our labors and they are found to be insufficient and lacking. But he takes our feeble and inadequate labors and makes up that which is lacking in them and by taking them to Himself, they become perfect and holy and super-substantial. These gifts become the life bearing and grace filled Body and Blood of Jesus Christ which are then imparted to each of us. And when we have all taken our fill, there is still more left over for these inadequate and insufficient gifts of bread and wine have become the super-abundant Body and Blood of Christ. And so we come day after day, week after week, year after year, bringing the best bread and wine that we have. And each time, although it is imperfect and insufficient, He accepts our gift and fills that which is lacking and makes it for us His own life giving and divine Body and His own precious Blood. This is how God provides for us – we give Him what we have and He makes it abundantly sufficient to fill our every need.
When the crowd had gathered in the wilderness, Jesus taught them – giving to them first food for their souls. But as the day grew old, the apostles knew that it would also be necessary for the people to have food for their bodies as well. When they suggested to the Lord that He send the crowd home to get food to eat, He responded to them saying, “You feed them.” This was a foreshadowing of the moment after the resurrection when Jesus would speak to Peter saying three times “Feed my sheep” indicating the fact that the Apostles themselves would take what they had received from Christ and through them He would feed the world, not worldly food for the body which perishes, but rather the divine and life giving spiritual food which imparts eternal life.
The disciples, however, did not yet grasp this and they responded in the moment saying to Christ, “We don’t have food for this multitude. We have only 5 small loaves and two fishes” Right from the beginning the disciples knew that they could not feed this crowd – they had nothing to give them. What they did have was not even sufficient for themselves. But Jesus did not ask of them an impossible task so that they might be ashamed or embarrassed or become despondent at the huge scope of the task in front of them. Rather He asked this of them that they might learn to see and depend upon the providence of God.
Jesus could have fed the multitude from the dust of the earth and the rocks that surrounded them, changing these elements into a banquet of unsurpassed quantity and quality. But this is not how God works in our lives. Rather Jesus said to the disciples, “Give to me what you have” and took their loaves and fishes and then He blessed them and broke them up, and instructed the disciples to begin to distribute them and here we begin to see the miracle. These few insufficient scraps of food that the disciples had with them managed to feed the entire crowd of 5000 men plus women and children. And not only this, but even afterward there were 12 baskets full of remnants – more scraps than the original 5 loaves and 2 fishes. This is the providence of God and how God works in us. When we bring to Him our needs, He does not simply produce the solution from thin air, but rather says to us, “you do it” When we respond, “We don’t have…” he turns to us as He did to the disciples and says, “give me what you have”. We give Him our small and insufficient resources and He blesses them and breaks them and returns them to us seemingly unchanged and says “now go and do this”. Having received our resources back from Him, we begin to find that they have indeed changed, for what was once insufficient (only 5 loaves and 2 fishes) is now not only abundantly sufficient but is super-abundant and super-sufficient such that it provides not only the need that we saw (the 5000 men), but also it provides for all hidden needs (all the women and children) and still there is more (the 12 baskets of remnants).
Our Lord has brought us here to this place to do His work. Here in Boise Idaho where there was once no Church, now we have three. And this one Church of St Seraphim, He has given to us for the purpose of spreading the light of Christ to the world. Here in this unlikely place, He has caused and Russian Orthodox Church to exist – and all because the founders of this parish trusted His providence and though what they had was insufficient – still they gave what they had to Him and see what He has made of it today. But the work is not done. Still there lies before us the task of building up this Church – not only physically, but spiritually as well. We need to add space to the Church, but we have not the money and resources to do so. We need to build up the choir, but it seems an impossible task. We need to recruit, train and raise up clergy who will lead and care for the parish for our children and grand children, but who is there to fill that role. We need to bring in more and more people from the spiritual darkness and emptiness of the world into the light and fullness of Christ for we are indeed missionaries – but how can we accomplish this. We see the task that God has set before us and we are inadequate, we are insufficient, what we do have is not even sufficient for our own needs, let alone to fill the needs of others. And yet, Jesus looks at us as He looked at His disciples and says, “Give to me what you do have and I will make it sufficient for all your needs.” God will not suddenly and mysteriously bring in masses of people to the parish; He will not bestow some mysterious endowment of cash like some divine lottery ticket; He will not have some priestly candidate appear as if out of nowhere. That is not how He works. He wants us to give to Him what we have and He then will take that and give it back – seemingly unchanged – but as we begin to use what He has returned to us, we find that now what was once inadequate is miraculously abundant, what was lacking is now more than sufficient.
Our Lord Jesus Christ asks of you that you give Him what you have. Give to Him your time and strength and skills, such as they are. Give to him your money and other resources. Give to Him your prayers and alms. Give to Him what you have and He will receive it and take it and bless it and give it all back to you. You may not think what you have is sufficient or worthwhile or worthy or useful – but if you give it to Jesus Christ it will become all that and more. Give to Him that which you have, and He will return it to you not only sufficient for the need, but abundantly, with a remnant greater than the offering with which you started.