Fr. Steven Roth
Peanut butter is just peanut butter in the grocery store or on the shelves in our homes. However, peanut butter is not just peanut butter here at St. Isaac’s. And not just peanut butter, but all the items you bring here each week like the boxes of pasta, jelly, and tuna. These items become more than simple food for the same reason as the barley loaves and fish in today’s gospel. The reason is Jesus.
In today’s gospel we heard Jesus doing far more than satisfying the physical hunger of the crowd. He did much more in this miracle. By feeding the crowds, Jesus began to introduce the people to the reality that He could satisfy their every longing. To put it simply, the food He gave them was a sign that He was a God who provides for them and should be trusted.
It is because of this same Jesus that the food distributed in our Outreach program becomes more than simply filling one’s stomach. The food you bring in is distributed every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month. If you have never helped out on these days, I highly recommend it. On these Wednesdays, those in our area who are in need of assistance gather. Deacon Jim brings them together to hear the day’s gospel, offers a reflection and ends with a funny story or joke. Then everyone moves to another room where the collected food has been sorted and each person gets to choose what they like or need.
What is so amazing is that each person is treated with such dignity through this food distribution! In turn, this food helps those in need feel they are important, loved and valued. The gratitude they express is incredible. All of this is done through the food you donate. Just as the young boy offered the food he had, so too do you. Through our faith in Jesus, wonderful things happen.
However, I realize there is always at least one cynic in the crowd that will say, “but Father, what about the person that just doesn’t want to work and is taking advantage of the parish?” Yes, I’m sure there are the exceptions, but wouldn’t we rather answer to God that we gave food to someone who didn’t deserve it, instead of answering why we deprived food to someone truly in need? Yet, I realize no one here thinks that way or this outreach program would not be what it is today.
And one last thing, not only does Jesus feed those in need, but He insists that the left over fragments are collected. He does this not because He enjoys leftovers, but because scholars argue that in not wasting anything, it is a reminder that He does not waste any of us. Instead, He seeks to use each of us in His ongoing mission for satisfying the longings of each person. Some of us might be called to donate food or volunteer our time. Some of us might be called to pray for those in need. Everyone is included in Jesus’ mission.
So I raise up this outreach program because I think it’s important as a parish that we never forget the importance of your generosity. I hope we never see the food collected as just food. Peanut butter is not just peanut butter here. Those fed saw Jesus as a great prophet, I can assure you that those who were here Wednesday see this parish as a great parish seeking to follow this same Jesus.