Tuesday After Epiphany
The first letter of John is famous for its treatment of love, and especially the statement that “God is love.” The final verse of today’s reading from 1 John gives a summary of love, saying that “this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son for expiation for our sins.” Our relationship with God begins and ends with God’s love. Without that first move, we could not respond in love, and our love could not be deepened. This runs counter to conventional wisdom, be it the statement that “God helps those who help themselves,” or the conviction that God approves of me because I am a good person. What we do or are has a lot less impact on our relationship with God than we might like to imagine.
We see this play out clearly in today’s gospel. Jesus sees the crowd and “has pity on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.” The first image is one of helplessness. Jesus sees our inability and lacking, and acts. First, He teaches the people. Then, He multiplies the fishes and the loaves. From the outset, it is obvious that what food they there is will not be sufficient to feed everyone, and there is nothing the apostles or the crowd can do about it. Jesus says a blessing, has the apostles distribute the food, and there is more than enough. Our lacking—both mental and physical—has been overcome by God. As we reflect this week on the ways in which God shines forth in our lives, we have a chance today to think about how He does this by giving us the help we are unable to obtain on our own.