GOSPEL MESSAGE & RECORDING
In the narrative of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, presented today in the Gospel Reading, taken from Luke 9: 10-17, we can observe how the many thousands of people who were following Christ found themselves in a deserted place in the evening with nothing to eat. The disciples become ever so concerned with the multitude of people and their need for food. So, they asked Christ to tell the people to go away and get food and drink in the nearest town before the sun set. Christ’s reply to this request is interesting and should be noted. He tells them, “You give them something to eat.” It is my inference, here, that Christ was challenging the disciples, putting them in an impossible position, because they had no way of getting food (enough for everyone). Furthermore, he also knew that they could not perform a miracle and multiple the five loaves and two fish. So, then why would Christ put his disciples in an impossible position? The question can be answered, as I know, in this way: Christ wanted them to realize that they had to take responsibility for the need that they were observing, rather than transferring the responsibility to him. Christ does this as a means to train them for their future ministry, so that, in moments of difficulty and suffering, either emotional or physical, they would take responsibility, rather looking elsewhere for someone or something to solve their problems.
We as Orthodox Christians very often attempt to relinquish ourselves of “spiritual” responsibilities by either placing it on others or the church. We need to realize that we are “called” to take ownership of our life, and ultimately, if we fail or succeed, it is an outcome of our actions.
Church attendance should be on a regular basis as possible. With this comes the receiving of the Body and Blood of Christ on consistent basis. Participating in Fellowships, prayer lines, fasting and other charitable ministries of the parish lead us to a greater connection with Christ. Without such participation, which is of a corporate nature, we will never feel like we are getting something from the church.
Like the disciples who saw the need for provision amongst the crowd, we also will realize that we need “spiritual” provision many times in our lives. It is true, that we need to “run” to the church for spiritual nourishment; but realize that at the same time, the church provides us with tools to deal with the challenges that arise in our life. How often have I heard the phrase, “I don’t get anything out of the church.” But the real question should be, “What have we put into the church, in order to get something out of it.” Sunday church is not a “one-stop shop” to fix our problems or to somehow “feel” connected to Christ or some people. As Christ told the disciples, “You feed them!” so also Christ tells us today, “You go and fast, pray, forgive, and love.” We should not blame the church for the spiritual deficit in our lives. We need to look within and realize that we only need to blame ourselves. The hard and difficult spiritual work has to be evident in our lives—personally speaking—otherwise we will always find ourselves unconnected and spiritually empty, no matter what parish we go to or what denomination that we switch to.