Seventeenth Sunday 2006
Forty years ago today, I began my Jesuit journey. I was a “young lad” of 18 and I had decided that my life would be the life of a Jesuit, a follower of Ignatius of Loyola and of course, a companion of Jesus. 40 years ago I could never have imagined what this Jesuit journey would be like. I could never have dreamed of the ways in which I would be called to “give the little I have”, like that young lad. I never could have dreamed of the ways in which God would set before me a table of plenty, a multidtude of people to love and serve and to receive from in love. I certainly would never have dreamed that dance would be such an integral part of my ministry and response to God, nor would I have dreamed of a place like st. Ignatius with such a multitude of wonderfully generous people. No, this is not a big anniversary. It’s just the number 40. 40 is so biblical. 40 signifies a “completion”, like the wandering in the desert of 40 years for the Israelites or 40 days and night for Jesus. I wonder if this means that I’m really ready for the promised land!
450 Years ago tomorrow, St Ignatius of Loyola, that Basque soldier who was so filled with pride and dreams of worldly accomplishment in his youth, died in Rome, never having imagined that God would gift him with such grace, so many companions, so much from so little. This one life of Ignatius would, like those few loaves and fishes be the leaven in the lives of so many people who would come to know God’s unconditional love for them in Jesus Christ. How many people would find in their own “five loaves and fishes” a miracle of transformation that would transform other’s minds and hearts to live lives of generous service for others.
This passage from John’s gospel has always captivated my imagination.
In the gospel story, it is the generosity of the one young lad that enables all to be fed (he only appears in John’s gospel). Pretty amazing when you think of a gathering of that size, there was only one individual who was forth coming. And what was it that enabled him to share the little he had? Was this young boy so moved by the preaching of Jesus that he was willing to give everything he had? Did he trust this Jesus so much that he was willing to say, Here, Jesus, Take and eat. This is for you? Even Jesus can not feed the five thousand, unless there is some bread to begin with, some small human gift that allows God in Jesus to feed. Jesus himself will not turn stones into bread. But from bread and human generosity all are fed with leftovers!
Our gathering here this morning (evening) at this Eucharistic meal is meant to remind us of our hunger for God and for human community. It is the generosity of Jesus, his self-gift that joins us together. It was his willingness to give completely of himself. (take and Eat this is my body for you. Take and drink, This is my blood poured out for you) that enables us to be nourished. As in the gospel story, it is the generosity of the one that makes it possible for all to be fed. Our Eucharist also reminds us that we do not come just to be fed individually. There is no “drive-thru” window at Eucharist. No we must come to the table. WE are made one in the body and blood of Christ who is our food and drink. The same dynamic that joins us at our meals is present here. (that is one reason why it perplexes me when people leave the Eucharist as communion is given out, or leave immediately after. Can you imagine someone getting up and leaving just as the meal is served? OR receiving the food and then leaving all of a sudden.) Eucharist is not about Jesus and me. It is about the meal that we share in his memory.
At the end of the spiritual exercise of St. Ignatius, whose feast we celebrate tomorrow there is the well-known Suscipe. Take Lord receive. At the center of our lives, in imitation of Jesus is the willingness to give back what we have first received. Take, receive, all is yours. As we come to this Eucharist, are we willing, like the young lad of the gospel story. Take, receive, what I have is yours.