Now Here's a Reason for Hope
The Passion and Anti-Semitism, Again

Sunday Night Journal &mdash July 30, 2006

What Are They Among So Many?

There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?

—John 6:9

War between Israel and Hezbollah, with a particularly heart-rending incident yesterday, as Hezbollah continues its evil but shrewd practice of placing its weapons among civilians; the savage internal terrorism in Iraq and the deaths of four more Marines there; the strong possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran: it’s a terrible-looking world this weekend.

But you don’t have to go to the Middle East to find trouble. Today we attended a memorial Mass for a young man who died of a drug overdose. And just as we were leaving for Mass someone who works with my wife called to say that she won’t be in tomorrow because she’s recovering from injuries inflicted by the man she lives with. (And if the thought is forming at the back of your mind that she somehow brought this on herself by living in what the Church demurely refers to as “an irregular situation,” you should temper your judgment with the knowledge that this woman took in and raised to adulthood four teenagers who were not her sons because, as she put it, “people kept throwing away perfectly good boys.”)

I could go on. You could add your own reports. Sometimes human evil, which is so much harder for me to take than the natural evils of storms, plagues, and the like, seems an ever-rising tide. Whatever we can do in our own sphere seems very small and weak in comparison.

So the miracle of the loaves and fishes is encouraging. That bit of food looked useless in the face of the multitude to be fed. Surely it’s significant, though, that the miracle began with a small amount, rather than with none. Presumably Jesus could have produced food from nothing, or from stones. And he didn’t simply produce enough to feed everyone, but rather replenished the small source even as it was being distributed. Again, as in other accounts of Jesus’ miracles, something is required of the recipients: a word, an action, a bit of food. And given that, he does everything.

One of my daughters graduated from nursing school on Friday. It was a joyful occasion: she has worked extremely hard, going to school and holding down a job at the same time, and she’s done well in school, and we’re very proud and pleased. She’ll start her first nursing job in a few weeks. It was moving to see her and her fifty or so jubilant fellow graduates receive the credentials that will allow them to set out on a career which has as its whole purpose the provision of healing and comfort. That’s not a great number of people setting out to push back against the effects of evil, the never-ending depredations of disease and injury and death, but those loaves and fishes didn’t seem to amount to much, either. May the Lord be with them and multiply what they provide.

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