17th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B 25 July 2021

Lunch Box Spirituality: The Heart of the Missions

Spirituality is that which animates a person’s life of faith; that which moves a person’s faith to greater depths and perfection. In today’s story of Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the multitude, we briefly encounter an anonymous boy who generously volunteered his lunch box.

    He gave all that he had to Jesus and that was the beginning of one of the greatest miracles man has ever known. Let us draw inspiration from this lunch box giving. This, after all, is the very heart of our mission.

              In computer science there was the so-called GIGO principle: Garbage In, Garbage Out – the integrity of the output is dependent on the integrity of the input. The computer can only work with the information I feed into it. If I feed it junk, I’ll get back junk. Your lunchbox is your responsibility!

              Let us go to another science, electricity. On September 11, 2003, The Guardian, reported “Britain’s biggest blackout for 25 years, which plunged large parts of London into darkness, was the result of a one amp fuse being fitted in place of a 5,000 amp fuse at a substation.” The fuse, described as shoebox-sized or about the size of a child’s lunch box, naturally blew up! All the electrical power of that entire region passed through that single fuse! Without that fuse box, no power could reach any point in that vast region! Without that fuse box, an entire city can be in darkness, total darkness! Isn’t that amazing? How a fuse box, the size of a child’s lunch box, can be so important as to affect the life of thousands of people!

              Now let us go to the science of theology. It is not very difficult to see the connections here. The so-called golden rule, which applies to practically all the religions in the world, says: “Do unto others what you would like them to do unto you.” That is to say, the measure you give is the measure you receive. You sow the seeds of hatred in your family, you sow anger in your community, you reap the fruits of anger, hatred and hostility just the same, well-shaken and flowing over. On the hand, if you sow the seeds of respect for life, respect for human dignity, if you sow the seeds of right attitude toward everybody regardless ofrace, color, creed and physical well-being,you reap a harvest of peace, joy and harmony. And as we said, most religions apply this golden rule one way or the other.

              Confucianism speaks of the principles of “Li” and “Jen.” It says that if one acts in a way that is externally proper, one reaps the internal virtue called “Ren” or “Jen” which will develop with one’s external behavior.

The golden (also silver) rule of Confucius is called the Shu [reciprocity] principle: Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”

Taoism on the other hand insists on interiority and harmony with nature; it believes that what you sow internally, you will reap externally. This principle is called Wu wei (simplified Chinese: 无为; traditional Chinese: 無爲; pinyin: wúwéi) which literally means “without action,” often expressed by the paradox wei wu wei, meaning “action through inaction”. Taoist philosophy proposes that the universe works

harmoniously according to its own ways. So, when someone exerts his will against the world, he disrupts that harmony (the yin-yang principle). Man must therefore place his will in harmony with the natural universe.

              Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism have the Karmic principle which states that when you do something good there is an inevitable call for a reward. But if you do something bad there is an inescapable call for punishment.

              But what about Christianity? What do we have? This is where we are totally different. Why? Because Christianity is not only a philosophy. Jesus was not only a thinker; in fact we neither call him a philosopher nor a theologian. He is God made man in whom there is no such thing as a destructive principle. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the Door, the Gate, and indeed, the only LINK, the one fuse box as it were, between God and Humanity. And without Him we are in total darkness.

              And Jesus said something more than the Golden Rule. He did not only say that what you give is what you get! Rather, the totality of His teaching is: Give all you’ve got to give out of love, and God will take care of the rest! Give without counting the cost! Give without expecting anything in return! And He taught this not by writing a book, but by living it and giving it without measure so that we may have life to the full!

              In today’s gospel, Jesus tested Philip with a question: “Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?” Philip failed the test when He answered: “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” Inside Philip’s “lunchbox” was the material concern of what money can buy.

              Andrew almost hit the right answer by volunteering a boy’s lunchbox. Almost. That was a good enough answer from an apostle – an enabling, encouraging agent. But, again, almost right. Later he added, “but what good are these for so many?” That was the failure! He doubted the power of the boy’s “little gift” of love. Andrew carried “doubts” in his “lunchbox.”

Who passed the test? The silent little boy. The little boy offered all he had and that was enough for God to feed the entire flock that followed him.

What Jesus did for the hungry crowd, He also wants to do for people today. He wants to feed the hungry millions of our world. But Jesus needs a little child of God in each of us to give Him a few loaves and fish to start the miracle. He needs you and me to give Him our lunch boxes. But the question is: In our years of being Christians, being Catholics, what have we been keeping in our lunch boxes? Material concerns? Reliance on what our money can buy? Ambitions of making more money? What have we been keeping in your lunch boxes all these years? Doubts about God’s power in our lives? Complaints about God’sgenerosity?Whathas been our Daily Bread all these years?

              After reading today’s gospel, the Pope said to the young people of Scotland in 1982: “The boy gave all he had and Jesus miraculously fed 5,000 people… It is exactly the same with your lives…Place your lives in the hands of Jesus. He will accept you and bless you…beyond your greatest expectations.”

God Bless You!