With Jesus, not enough becomes more than enough

Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde for the Quo Vadis Days Opening Mass at Mount Saint Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.

Five people are mentioned in today's Gospel passage; four of them have names: Jesus, Philip, Andrew and his brother, Simon Peter. The fifth person has a name, too, but we do not know it. He remains anonymous. Yet, I propose him as the person on whom we should focus.

The anonymous person is the boy who had five loaves and two fish - not a lot of food, certainly not for the large crowd who had gathered on the mountain to hear Jesus! Andrew was absolutely accurate when he said to Jesus: "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?" Why am I asking us to focus on this anonymous boy? Because he was willing and generous in offering what he had - little as it was - to help Jesus. And, as we see, Jesus chose to use what the boy offered - little as it was - because Jesus would then transform what seemed so insignificant to become more than enough to satisfy the hunger of that large crowd. The leftovers filled 12 wicker baskets!

What the Lord Jesus saw and did then on that mountain over 2000 years ago, He continues to see and do down through the centuries to our own time now. He continues to see people who are either truly starving from a lack of food or eating the kind of food which does not nourish them in a healthy way. The Lord Jesus sees even many more people who hunger, not for food as such, but for meaning and purpose. They hunger to love and to be loved. Their hearts are hungering to be satisfied, to be really fulfilled. Did I say "they"? I should say "we" because we too - each one of us - are hungering for what will truly satisfy the deepest longings of the heart.

And the food for which our hearts hunger is a Person, Whose name is Jesus Christ! He alone, in the end, satisfies and fulfills the deepest longings of our hearts. As Saint Peter so clearly and accurately expressed: "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God" (cf. Jn 6:68-69).

Yes, the Lord Jesus continues to see people who are hungering. And He continues to do what He did on that mountain: to use ordinary people, like that anonymous boy, who seem to have so little, by transforming the little they have and are so that it becomes more than enough!

So, are you and I like that anonymous boy in today's Gospel account? Are we willing to offer to Jesus the little we seem to have and, even more, the little we seem to be, so that He can use us to fulfill the hunger of His people? I repeat, are we as willing and generous as was that unnamed boy? While we honestly acknowledge our seemingly few talents and gifts, while we realistically admit that we are limited, prone to sin and actually sometimes sin, are we humble enough to offer all we have and are to Jesus, so that He can transform us and use us as He satisfies hungry hearts?

Dear young men, you are beginning your "Quo Vadis" time together. As you know, those two words in Latin mean "Where are you going?" Tradition tells us that Saint Peter was fleeing from Rome, so as to avoid being persecuted, when he met the Lord Jesus just outside the city walls. He asked Jesus, "Quo vadis? Where are you going?" and Jesus replied, "I am going to Rome to take your place in being persecuted." Well, Saint Peter immediately turned around and went back to Rome where later he gave his life as a witness to Jesus Christ the Lord.

Jesus is asking each of you: "Quo vadis? Where are you going?" You probably would answer, "What do you mean, dear Lord?" He would reply, "Where are you going with your future life as an adult?" You would probably reply, "I don't know yet where I shall go in my adult life." And Jesus says back to you: "I have a plan for you, a plan that will be uniquely yours! Slowly, gradually, you can discover My plan for your adult life, and when you do discover it, follow it, whatever it is. Why? Because in My plan for you, you will experience real fulfillment in your heart, the kind of fulfillment that will bring you inner peace, true happiness. And, as you follow My plan, I will be using you to bring fulfillment to the hearts of My people.

"If My plan for you means marriage and family, I will use you and transform you to become a faithful and loving husband and father, bringing joy to your wife and your children, and she and your children will bring joy to you. Or, if My plan for you means the priesthood or the religious life of a brother, I will use you and transform you so that as a priest, you will make Me uniquely present as you teach, celebrate the sacraments, and give pastoral care, or so that as a religious brother, you will feed My people as you teach, or give health care, or minister to the poorest and most needy. Or, if My plan for you means living celibately, that is, not being married, and living chastely, that is, not being involved sexually, I will use you and transform you to do what I wish you to do to advance God's presence in the world. If My plan for you also involves serving as a permanent deacon, I will use you and transform you so that through the three-fold ministry of the Word, the Altar and Charity, you will assist the bishop and priests in teaching and preaching, in giving Holy Communion to the faithful, and in reaching out to those in need through various charitable works. In whatever plan I have in mind for you, I will use whatever you have and all you are, even if it seems not enough, just as I once used that anonymous little boy and the little food he had."

So, begin this week. (1) Open your mind and heart to God through prayer every day. Be like Samuel in the Old Testament, echoing what he said: "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening" (cf. 1 Sam 3:10). (2) Listen to your heart, not your feelings. Feelings come and go; they keep changing. They do not tell us what we really desire, only what we may think at the moment that we desire or they tell us the culture and society around us tell us what we need to be fulfilled. Only the heart tells us what we really want in order to be fulfilled. (3) Consult wise people who will really listen to you and offer you advice or counsel as to how to become aware of God's plan for your life.

"Where are you going?" Be like that anonymous boy in today's Gospel. Be willing and generous enough to offer Jesus all you have and all you are, even if it seems not much, not enough. Jesus knows how to use all you have and are, to transform it so that it will be more than enough for the plan He has for your future life. Trust Him; you are precious in His eyes and He loves you!

Yes, the Lord Jesus continues to see and to do what He saw and did on the mountain. He sees people who are hungering for what will really satisfy their hearts. He uses the little we offer by transforming it so that it becomes more than enough! He needs ordinary people, like that anonymous boy; He needs you and me to be willing and generous in order to be transformed by Him! It's amazing what we can learn and imitate from an anonymous boy in the Gospels!

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015