Give them some food yourselves
Commentary on the homily
Give them some food yourselves. What a daunting command from Jesus. How can the apostles possibly do this? Well the truth is that they cannot. There is an important lesson for us as we consider the spiritual life. We can do little. But God can do a lot.
In the western world especially, it seems we believe everything depends upon us. Everything. But of course that is not true. But for whatever reason, probably related to control, we want to believe that everything does depend upon us. Looking at the people in the Scriptures, we can see, however, that when they are at their worst, it is often true they are trying to act as if everything depended upon them.
Consider Moses, and those times when he feels burdened by the people he is trying to lead. Give them some food yourselves. Consider the choice Adam and Eve made in the Garden of Eden. God did not know best. Morality depended upon them. Give them some food yourselves. Elijah comes to the cave completely worn out after having been the vehicle of all that God had done through him. But he was not able to separate his apparent failure from God’s eternal plan. Give them some food yourselves.
And when we consider our own lives, we too can hear Jesus say to us, Give them some food yourselves. But the truth is that just as the apostles felt they were being told to do something, it was really the case that things were better when Jesus took charge and did things. Give them some food yourselves is really a phrase that prepares the apostles to be ready for the great thing Jesus will do.
Give them some food yourselves is the same for you and me. When Jesus tells us Give them Give them some food yourselves, he is really preparing us for the great things he will do in our lives. Give them some food yourselves. I am getting ready to speak clearly to you. Give them some food yourselves. I will inspire you to serve me in the poor.
When we try to reduce the spiritual life to something logical and rational only, then the words of Jesus are simply impossible to hear. Give them some food yourselves. Even the apostles ask this question: “Are we to buy two hundred days’ wages worth of food and give it to them to eat?” How is it even possible that we can find enough food for these people.
If one looks carefully at the saints, it is clear that they understood something very real about the spiritual life. Namely, that the beginning of prayer is about surrendering to God and what He will do. It is simple not dependent upon us. We simply open ourselves to God. He does the rest.
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
Today we celebrate Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, a married woman who converted to Catholicism and founded the first religious community of women in the United States, the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph. They served in schools. She was profoundly influenced by the Catholic teaching on the Eucharist.
Her life was not an easy one. Her mother died when she was three. Her husband died only nine years after she was married, leaving Elizabeth Ann Seton to raise five children herself. It was the Catholic faith, which she encountered in Italy that probably helped her through these difficulties. She became a Catholic only two years after her husband died. She is the first American citizen to be canonized a saint.