The Chicago Sun-times reports that 80% of store employees surveyed have stolen from their employers. A Cornell University study shows that the average child develops an accepting attitude towards cheating by the time they are 10 years old. And an international study shows that half of the world's population has no safe water supply and that 450 million people go hungry every night.
When we hear statistics like this, we can get depressed. As Christians we know that we should do something, but as human beings we often say, "I'm only one person, what can I do?" So we file these statistics away in our mind.
"'Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.' Jesus said, 'Bring them here to me.'" Today's Gospel suggests that maybe we're approaching the problem in a purely human way. Perhaps we should look at it more in a faith-filled way. Today's Gospel paints a picture similar to the statistics we heard. More than 5,000 were without anything to eat and were hungry. The only food around were five loaves and two fish.
In John's Gospel we're told this food belongs to a little boy. When Jesus learned about the food, he called the boy, "Will you give me what you have so that I can feed these hungry people?" The boy trusted Jesus and gave him the five loaves and two fish. We all know what happened next. Today's Gospel suggests that one person can make a big difference. Or rather, two people can - one person and Jesus. The boy gave what he had to Jesus, and Jesus fed a hungry crowd with it. This spectacular story of the feeding of the 5,000 reminds us of a very important principle: God has set up the world in such a way that the action of an individual is important and can have a far reaching impact.
Newspaper columnist Art Buchwald, once wrote a humorous story about his friend Oscar in New York City. One day Art and Oscar were getting out of a taxi. As they did, Oscar said to the driver, "You did a superb job of driving." The cabbie looked at him and said, "What are you? Some kind of a wise guy?" "Not at all," said Oscar. "I really mean it. I admire the way you move about in the traffic." The cabbie paused, then smiled, and drove off. "What was that all about?" asked Art. "I'm trying to bring love back to New York," Oscar replied. "How can you do that?" said Art. "It's simple. Take that cabbie," Oscar explained. "I just made his day. Let's suppose he has 20 fares today. He's going to be nice to those 20 people. They, in turn, will be kinder to other people. Eventually, the kindness could spread to a thousand people." "You're turning into a nut," Art said.
Just then they passed a construction site. It was noon, the workers were eating. Oscar walked up to them and said, "That's a great job you men are doing." The workers eyed Oscar suspiciously. "When will it be finished?" Oscar asked. "June," grunted the hard-hats. "That's great," Oscar said. "It will be a splendid addition to the city."
As they continued their walk, Art said to Oscar, "I haven't seen anyone like you since The Man of La Mancha." "That's okay," said Oscar. "You can joke. But when those men digest my words, they'll be better for it." Art said, "But even if they are better for it, you're still only one man, and one person can't change New York City." "Yes, he can," said Oscar. "The big thing is not to get discouraged. Bringing back love to New York is not easy. But if I can get other people to join me in my campaign, it will work."
This brings us back to today's Gospel. The boy gave what meager food he had to Jesus. And Jesus shared the boy's gift with thousands. And those thousands who ate bread on that day were just a foretaste of the billions or trillions - including you and me today - who would be fed by the bread of the Eucharist. The message of today's Gospel is this: One person - even you or me - can be the instrument of a miracle. One concerned person, with the help of Jesus, can be the means for helping thousands.
British TV celebrity Malcolm Muggeridge converted to Catholicism because of the simple acts of kindness he witnessed in the life of Mother Teresa. He said this about his conversion, "Words cannot express how much I owe her. She showed me Christianity in action. She showed me the power of love. She showed me how one loving person can start a tidal wave of love that can spread to the entire world."
This is our Good News today, that a single person is important; the Good News that one person counts. It is the Good News that if we share what meager gifts we have with Jesus, He can make them bear fruit beyond our wildest dreams. If we offer our talents and treasures to the Lord, He can perform miracles with them.
Let me close with a poem by the Mexican poet Amado Nervo:
I'm only an ant-hill
I'm only a feather,
What will you give to Jesus today? Be a part of the miracle.
May God give you peace.