Gospel of Matthew 14:13-21
They all ate and were satisfied.
when Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” Then he said, “Bring them here to me,” and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over—twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were over five thousand people.
Jesus has just heard of his beloved cousin’s brutal killing. As revealed in the scriptures, John had loved him ever since he jumped for joy in his mother’s womb at their first meeting. It seems likely their mothers shared this story with them. At his Baptism, it was John who again met Jesus with the deep knowledge of who Jesus really was. I imagine the deep grief and sorrow Jesus must have felt at John’s death. He felt the need to withdraw to a deserted place in solitude. Yet it was from the depths of this deserted place that he was led by compassion for the people to cure their sick and perform the most magnificent miracle of feeding the thousands of people who had gathered. Out of barely nothing, apart from five loaves and two fish, and a whole lot of love and desire, poured an abundance of love and food that would nurture the multitudes.
After imagining this scene, I am reminded of the images of health workers throughout our world experiencing deep grief at the loss of patients, even their own colleagues and loved ones, perhaps only finding a moment to withdraw in solitude, but find themselves returning out of compassion to nurture and tend those who are sick with COVID19. Then, somehow out of an abundance of love they return again and again, day after day, to nurture the multitudes who arrive at their hospital doors.
I ponder the depths of the power of this kind of love.
Mary Ward knew the experience of the abundance of God’s love. In her letter ‘The Just Soul’ she uses the imagery of a fountain which she could “return to without labour” and would be a source of abundance for her Institute. In times of utter despair and suffering, Mary and her companions drew from this fountain of love for years to come.
In my prayer, I try to recall a story in my own life of moving from grief and despair to love.
I dwell in this fountain of love for as long as I am able.
In the footsteps of Mary Ward and her companions, I listen to my desire to draw strength from this fountain of love so that I can tend to others in need.