First Reading: 2 Kings 4:42-44
A man came from Ba’al-shal’ishah, bringing the man of God bread of the first fruits, twenty loaves of barley, and fresh ears of grain in his sack. And Eli’sha said, “Give to the men, that they may eat.” But his servant said, “How am I to set this before a hundred men?” So he repeated, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the LORD, `They shall eat and have some left.'” So he set it before them. And they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the LORD.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 145:10-11, 15-18
All thy works shall give thanks to thee, O LORD, and all thy saints shall bless thee! They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and tell of thy power, The eyes of all look to thee, and thou givest them their food in due season. Thou openest thy hand, thou satisfiest the desire of every living thing. The LORD is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings. 18The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.
Second Reading: Ephesians 4:1-6
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.
Gospel: John 6:1-15
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiber’i-as. And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, “How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
I don’t consider myself a planner, being that I’m disorganized as the day is long. But with all of my disorganization, I’ve come to understand that I still love me some control. I need a say. I want it done my way. When I’m not in charge, I want answers to all my questions before I commit. I want to plan my non-planner way through all the what-ifs and risks and impossibilities until I’m satisfied that there will be a good outcome (or I’ll have Plans B, C, and D through Z to back me up).
So I feel the pain of the men in the First Reading as well as the disciples in the Gospel.
“How am I to set this before a hundred men?” asks Elisha’s servant, eyeing the twenty loaves of barley incredulously.
Two thousand years later, with the stakes raised even higher, Andrew eyes the five thousand and says to Jesus, “What are five barley loaves and two fish among so many?” Philip adds with dismay, “[N]ot even two hundred denarii [an amount that would equate to 8 months of wages or around $4,000 today] would be enough to give them each a little!”
How can this work? What can they do? The answer is that the wise Elisha doesn’t answer his servant’s frantic questioning; he just repeats his instructions of what to do. Jesus tests His disciples by allowing them to question the impossible, but doesn’t let them entertain it for more than a moment; He just sets to work. Both teachers answer by showing their disciples the need to let go of control control and contingencies. With simple actions they teach: stop hesitating and start doing.
In the trusting and the doing. That’s where God shows up with a better contingency than our humans minds and means could ever drum up.
Even in today’s readings, we see the incredible plot master and Ultimate Planner our God is: Jesus’ miracle of feeding the 5,000 is pre-figured by the story of Elisha feeding the 100–nearly 1,000 years before. It’s striking to see the parallel today, but God had it planned that way all along.
And as our pastor reminded us not too long ago, the only person in the world who can know and do and control everything is our God. Try as we might to muck up His plans by attempting to control and develop our contingencies, God’s the only one who can manage it all. So let’s stop trying so hard to play God and start trying to better learn our role as the servant and disciples did. More trusting. More doing. That’s the power of serving a God who’s already got it under control.
Let’s surrender ourselves today to Paul’s words of truth: “There is . . . one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
Megan Hjelmstad is a wife, mom, writer and sometimes soldier whose real passion is equal parts faith and chocolate. You can find out more about her here.