One question that I am frequently asked as a priest is: “Who does the cooking for you at the rectory?” And I never hesitate to tell them that we have a gourmet cook who takes care of the meals at Our Lady of Mercy! He also happens to be the pastor, Fr. John Lolio.
“But what about when he’s not there?” people will often continue. “What do you do then?” Truth be told, I practically live on leftovers, on what is left-over after the meals the pastor has cooked.
Now I know what you’re thinking: Leftovers? How could anyone live on leftovers? But make no mistake about it; the leftovers I eat here are at least as good as your average meal at Capriccio’s, or any restaurant up on Federal Hill.
In our 1st reading this morning, as well as in the Gospel, we hear about leftovers. In the passage we just heard from the 2nd Book of Kings, the prophet Elisha instructs his servant to feed the crowd of 100 people with just a small amount of bread. The servant, of course, is more than a little skeptical. Nonetheless, Elisha says to him:
“Give it to the people to eat. For thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over’.”
—2 Kings 4:43
And so there was.
In the Gospel we hear of the great miracle of the loaves and fish, how Jesus feeds 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and just a couple of fish. St. John tells us that:
When they had had their fill, [Jesus] said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.
What do these passages, these miracles tell us about God? They reveal to us that God never works in our lives for our sake only. When God performs miracles and pours out His grace and His mercy, He does so in a super-abundant way. There’s never just enough; there is more than enough. When God acts in our lives, there are leftovers.
I would suggest that there are three things God makes known to us in these miracles, three things God reveals when it comes to His super-abundant love at work in our lives:
Firstly, God is able to perform miracles and do amazing things; but He expects us to bring at least something to the table. Jesus feeds 5,000 people, but not without the five loaves and two fish from that small boy who simply gave to Jesus what he had.
What are we bringing to this Mass this morning? Have we considered what God wants us to bring and place on this altar? What are we bringing to our relationship with God? Are we giving Him the time and space that He needs to accomplish what He wants to in our lives and in the lives of those around us?
Perhaps all we can offer to God this morning is our suffering, our sacrifices. God can do miracles with that gift beyond what we could ever imagine. We need to give God what we can—even if it seems small and as insignificant as a few loaves and a couple of fish—we simply give God what we’ve have, and trust in Him to do the rest.
Secondly, we can see in the Gospel that Christ saves a plate of leftovers for each one of us. There were twelve apostles there that day who witnessed that miracle with Christ. When all was said and done, they collected the fragments and placed them in twelve wicker baskets, one for each of them.
God reserves one wicker basket for each and every one of us here today. As He pours out His super-abundant love in our lives here at this Mass, He wants to strengthen us and transform our lives. But He also wants to make us His instruments well beyond these walls.
He wants us to bring the leftovers to those around us most in need of His love and mercy. Who are the people God wants to feed with the mercy and grace He pours out upon you and I today? Might we be faithful in acting on that grace.
Which brings us to the final truth God makes known to us in this miracle of the loaves and fish: that we need to act on and respond to the grace God gives us, as He gives it. Leftovers are good a day later, maybe even two. But any longer than that, and they go bad, they get spoiled; we have to throw them out.
We must not waste time when it comes to the things of God. Who is that person we need to write a letter to or get into contact with? Where do we need to make a phone call, or offer a kind word of encouragement? How is God calling us to respond to Him today? Don’t let the leftovers get spoiled in your life.
We come to this Eucharistic table this morning, and Christ Himself will perform yet another miracle with bread and wine, transforming it into His very body and His own blood. He feeds us in this place with the gift of Himself. But He expects us to feed others and make His love, His mercy, and His presence known in the world around us.
Might we allow Him to do that by responding well to the graces and the leftovers He gives us here; may the people in your life enjoy those leftovers at least as much as I enjoy the ones Fr. Lolio cooks here each week.