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At the Holy Land Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves a mosaic depicts four loaves. The fifth is in the tabernacle.
God is good.
God is so good, in fact, that it is hard to remember how good he is. Just like a child starts to resent his parents for giving him one candy instead of two, we have grown so used to the sheer abundance and gratuity of God’s gifts that we lose sight of the generosity behind them.
The readings for this Sunday (the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A), culminating in Matthew’s multiplication of the loaves, help us remember.
Confronted by large crowds in an out-of-the-way place, the disciples of Christ want to do the sensible thing —“dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”
But Jesus applies love, not economics, to the problem: Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.”
He then takes the only five loaves and two fish they have, looks up to heaven, “blesses, breaks and gives” the bread to the disciples — what he does for us in the Eucharist — who then give it to the crowd.
This addition of love to the equation has a dynamic effect.
Jesus does not just feed the people. He overfeeds them. “They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over — twelve wicker baskets full.”
That sounds like the overabundant love of God described in the first reading: “You who have no money, come — receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost; drink wine and milk!”
God always deals with us that way. Everything we have has been freely given to us.
In fact, the “us” that is enjoying the receiving of these super-abundant gifts; we are also a gratuitous, free gift of God. That is what the very first sentence of the Catechism teaches: “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life.”
The generosity of God does not just apply to material things, however. When he gives spiritual gifts, he also gives more than enough of the best gifts available.
Read how St. Paul describes the gift of Christ’s love:
“Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We don’t just receive the love of God in Christ. We receive an unstoppable, unassailable, invulnerable love of God.
So, who are we to count pennies, to worry about who is getting away with what and to measure out God’s gifts in dribs and drabs? To do so is to forget in whose image and likeness we were made.
God is love, and since we are made in his image we can only be truly happy to the extent that we are willing to give of ourselves.