Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Jesus reminds us today of what Israel has known from ancient times: “Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Deut. 8:3) Yesterday the man with the rich harvest had more than he could ever eat and yet died with nothing; the people in the crowd today have nothing to eat until Jesus—the living Word of God—moves to feed them. Though He was the one who had been deprived when His dear friend and cousin, John the Baptist, was brutally beheaded. Yet even His wounded and weary heart was yet “moved with pity” for the crowd, and He cured their sick. The disciples then saw that they were hungry and had nothing to eat, but asked that He dismiss them, not feed them.

When Jesus tells them to feed the crowd, He is not suggesting that they have some great store of food they are selfishly hoarding; rather, He is reminding them of the fact the very bread come down from Heaven (John 6:35-38) is there if they would only give Him to the people! Their response, making known what little food they had, indicated to Jesus that they did not understand. Then He took their meager offering and multiplied it according to the measure of His love; it is no wonder there were so many fragments left over.

In this miracle story Jesus teaches us a fundamental lesson about God: He provides for our every need. The apostles could only think of a solution according to their own means for fulfillment; none of them thought to ask Jesus for anything but to put the problem in the hands of the hungry. What’s more is we see that God does not provide for our needs because He owes us anything, but rather because He loves us. Our needs and desires move Him with love, and He withholds nothing, and we see as well that He is not satisfied with mere sufficiency, but rather abundance. (John 10:10)

We see this in the example of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, bishop and doctor of the Church. After years of studying and practicing law, poor eyesight and asthma preventing him from a hoped-for military career, he found himself considering leaving his profession in his mid-twenties. After eight years of success he lost an important case—his first loss ever—and heard a voice within saying, “Leave the world, and give yourself to Me.” St. Alphonsus likely saw himself as no more than a little bread and fish; what would God do with Him? Great things, as we now know.

Not only must we look to God for our every need and trust that our good Father will not fail us (Luke 11:9-13), but we must give Him our very selves. We have seen what He can do with the scraps of food the apostles had, and we’ve seen what He did with the apostles, themselves not really much to boast of: imagine, then, what God could do with you if you but offered yourself to Him, for the sake of bringing Jesus to those who are starving to receive Him?

August 1st, 2016