V.12= When they had had their fill, He said to His disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.”
Various NGO’s, who monitor such things, state that each year 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted!
Here Jesus is teaching us a critical lesson when it comes to leftover food.
Ever morsel wasted, every fragment not gathered up and either given to the hungry or used, for example in composting to produce fresh food, is a serious moral wrong.
This verse should, indeed, be kept before our eyes and heart every time we sit down to a meal so that once we have had ‘our fill’, we too gather up the fragments.
St. John obviously took the gathering of the fragments seriously for he makes the point: So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. ~v.13
Some of the most painful footage from WWII of people in bombed out cities is of the young, old, mere children, scrapping what they can from garbage cans, cutting up dead horses, eating tulip bulbs, anything to avoid starving to death.
There are other ‘fragments’ we, the baptized, should be always vigilant to see and gather up.
Here, as always, we look to Jesus to learn from Him, to imitate Him: The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Him, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them He addressed this parable. “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. [Lk.15:1-7]
Fragments come about because something – or in the above parable someone – has, by various means, actions, become broken apart, shattered, has fallen to pieces.
The Body of Christ through the actions and sins, the angers, of Christians towards one other, with theological disputes often Trojan horses for the interference of persons with political agendas, is fragmented; wars, genocides, racism, economic disparities fragment the human family within nations, between nations; multiple are the causes of fragmentation within individual families; and when we sin we ourselves become broken apart, our relationship with Christ fragments.
Until we repent, and with mortal sin humbly confess and receive absolution, we remain stuck in a shattered spiritual state, perhaps emotional was well.
Jesus gives us another example where we can imitate Him: Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling! [Mt.23:37]
Here is a critical element if we are to seek the lost, gather those whose lives are fragmented, be they within any nation, race, religion on earth, be they within the Church, East and West or elsewhere in Christianity, or within our own families: compassion.
No matter how fragmented we may feel, and if searching for a word to comfort someone we meet who is heart broken, discouraged, shattered by some trauma, we can repeat to them, to our own heart’s words from one of St. John Paul’s poems, words from Jesus who gives them to the Samaritan woman to speak to everyone: You don’t walk alone, ever. Not for a moment….
IF we are judgemental or fall into the trap of gathering with some onerous expectation upon the person reached out to, that does NOT imitate the compassionate and humble heart of Jesus. Rather than gathering we will simply further fragment, we will scatter: Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters. [Mt.12:30; Lk. 11:23]
Astute people are aware of all the broken and scattered, fragmented and divided situations within the Church, within nations, families, individual lives.
If we listen attentively to the Holy Spirit He will enlighten our minds, love’s creative-charity of our hearts, and we can indeed become – must become - gatherers with Jesus of all the fragments.
Lest we be deceived by satan, hissing his lie the fragmentation we see is simply too many broken pieces to ever be gathered up, better we listen to the assurances of Jesus:“……nothing will be impossible for God.” [Lk. 1:37] Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” [Mt. 19:26] And He said, “What is impossible for human beings is possible for God.” [Lk.18:27].
Vs. 14: When the people saw the sign He had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”
Baptism makes us sharers in Christ’s prophetic mission.
The power of our prophetic baptismal charism is to shine a light into the depths of the fragmented lives of those around us, a light which illumines the path to becoming de-fragmented, becoming whole, and yes, holy again.
©2018 Fr. Arthur Joseph