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When Grace Looks Like 5,000 Boxed Lunches

First Reading: Numbers 11:4B-15

The children of Israel lamented, “Would that we had meat for food! We remember the fish we used to eat without cost in Egypt, and the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now we are famished; we see nothing before us but this manna.” Manna was like coriander seed and had the color of resin. When they had gone about and gathered it up, the people would grind it between millstones or pound it in a mortar, then cook it in a pot and make it into loaves, which tasted like cakes made with oil. At night, when the dew fell upon the camp, the manna also fell. When Moses heard the people, family after family, crying at the entrance of their tents, so that the LORD became very angry, he was grieved. “Why do you treat your servant so badly?” Moses asked the LORD.“Why are you so displeased with me that you burden me with all this people? Was it I who conceived all this people? Or was it I who gave them birth, that you tell me to carry them at my bosom, like a foster father carrying an infant, to the land you have promised under oath to their fathers? Where can I get meat to give to all this people? For they are crying to me, ‘Give us meat for our food.’ I cannot carry all this people by myself, for they are too heavy for me. If this is the way you will deal with me, then please do me the favor of killing me at once, so that I need no longer face this distress.”

Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 81:12-13, 14-15, 16-17

Sing with joy to God our help. “My people heard not my voice, and Israel obeyed me not; So I gave them up to the hardness of their hearts; they walked according to their own counsels.” “If only my people would hear me, and Israel walk in my ways, Quickly would I humble their enemies; against their foes I would turn my hand.” “Those who hated the LORD would seek to flatter me, but their fate would endure forever, While Israel I would feed with the best of wheat, and with honey from the rock I would fill them.”

Gospel: Matthew 14:13-21

When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” He said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” Then he said, “Bring them here to me,”and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over–twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.

ESV

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Sometimes the world feels like one huge, unmet need. There are entire countries without enough food to eat. There are people without homes who live on the street. There are people who die because they don’t have medical care. There are communities without access to fresh water.

Here at home, I’m surrounded by need, too. My oldest needs a refill of juice. My youngest needs a diaper change. My mom needs a call back, and my husband needs to know what time the dental appointments are next month. The plants need watering, and I need a nap.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the needs around us. When the immediate things in our daily lives consume all our energy, we have nothing left to devote to those global needs we know are out there. Sometimes, we don’t have time to deal with our own needs at all, which limits our ability to serve others well. (I don’t know about you, but I get seriously grumpy if I wait too long to eat . . . if someone asks for another refill of juice at that moment, woe to that child!)

I think Jesus gets it. He knows what it’s like to have precious little time to deal with personal needs. When He hears the news of His cousin’s death, He goes off by Himself to grieve, and a crowd follows Him! He cannot get a moment’s peace. Yet when He sees them, He pities them. He feels for them. He meets their needs—He heals their sick, and then He provides a meal for them as they sit on the grass. They don’t even have to ask. He knows what they need, and He provides it for them, just because they are there in front of Him.

Five thousand boxed lunches later, Matthew tells us that they all ate and were satisfied. Jesus knew what they needed even better than they did.

Maybe this is grace—our needs being met before we even know them. If one grieving man can feed five thousand, maybe this tired mom can refill one more juice cup with a smile. Maybe you can finish one more assignment, sit through one more meeting, or survive one more rehearsal. After all, Jesus is taking care of us, too. He knows what lies ahead and He knows what we need to make it through.

God is always caring for each of us, even when we are too busy to notice. Bringing our awareness to the ways in which we are cared for can help us feel more generous in giving to others. Today, whenever you find yourself dealing with someone who needs something from you, take a moment to thank Jesus for taking care of your needs.

photo by Corynne Olivia

Abbey Dupuy is a homeschooling mama to preschooler twins, a first grader and a new baby. You can find out more about her here.

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