• "Everything is a grace, everything is the direct effect of our Father's love—difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul's miseries, her burdens, her needs - everything, because through them, she learns humility, realizes her weakness - Everything is a grace because everything is God's gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events—to the heart that loves, all is well."
  • - St. Therese of Lisieux

Monday, August 1, 2016

7 Lessons On Suffering From The Gospel Account: Feeding of the Five Thousand

One of the most inspiring talks of Mother Angelica was about St. Mark's account on the Feeding of the Five Thousand. She has always encouraged her audience to read the gospel with one's imagination. Here are 7 lessons I learned on suffering from this gospel account.

1.   It’s OK to withdraw. “When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.” –Mt. 14:13 Jesus was grieving. The apostles were most likely to be grieving too.

The first two people Jesus called to follow him were first followers of him (Jn. 1:35 - 39). The first one was John and the other was Andrew.

Most of us have had our share of sorrow and grief when we lost a loved one. And it’s only natural for us to withdraw, to hide away and mourn. Even if our sufferings are not as bad as it is, we sometimes feel that it is. Here, the Lord shows us that it is OK to withdraw, not to shut out the world, but to find God, to seek His counsel, to come to him like a child who goes to a parent with a scratched knee.

When things get chaotic at home with the toddler, my control freak self emerges. With so many things to do and so much more on my mind, it’s pretty hard to keep my composure. I have learned, just lately to step back, withdraw and take a deep breath when I feel that I’m about to break.

We know from the gospel reading (see Mark 6:30-34) that Jesus instructed the apostles to “go to a remote place and have some rest.” From Matthews account, I’m guessing that Jesus took another boat by himself.

2. We must continue to serve God & others.  After taking a few deep breaths, I ask God for guidance and the strength to go on. Of course I cannot just withdraw and lock myself in a room and just pray that all the chores and the toddler’s needs to go away. God does not want us to do that. He wants us to continue to love despite our sufferings.

“When he disembarked, and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.” –Mt. 14:14

If you’re a mom with little kids, you know the feeling of being followed. And sometimes just one toddler could feel like a crowd. When I ask my tot to play with his toys in the living room while I cooked in the kitchen which is just six steps away from him, while he sweetly agrees, I always find him at my feet minutes later, playing with his toys. Imagine Jesus and the apostles, they were expecting to be alone in a remote place to rest. But they were greeted by a large crowd, probably larger than the one they had left because many more came along from the neighboring villages.

Again, in Mark’s account, “(But) the people saw them leaving and many could guess where they were going. So from all the towns, they hurried there on foot, arriving ahead of them.” –Mk. 6:33

3.    Do not overthink. ‘Am I a good parent for letting my two year old watch a Pixar movie for one hour and forty five minutes?’ ‘If only I bought an extra set of cloth diapers, I would not be doing the laundry every other day.’ Most of the time, if not all the time, overthinking gives the devil a chance to sneak in one or two of his lies. I would often doubt about my parenting skills or if I can really be a homemaker, you know, all that mom-stuff in a mom’s head. We need to shake that off.

Most nights I would plan and make activities for my tot and sleep with the resolve to do them all tomorrow. Most days, however, we’re blessed to have even do one activity. And all my other plans, B-C-and D are forgotten.

Probably tired and hungry, the apostles could not help but ask our dear Lord to “--dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” –Mt. 14:15

They had only plan A. So when Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” –Mt. 14:16 The apostles were now faced with a bigger problem. They were probably asking Jesus to send the crowd away so they could eat their five loaves and two fish. As you can see, even that would not be enough for all of them including Jesus. If I was there, I’d probably bring up all the things that were not going my way. First, I am hungry and tired. Second I will have to share five loaves and two fish with 12 other men. And now Jesus asks me to feed more than five thousand men and women?

But the apostles were simple men and probably very hungry to overthink; and were very honest too. Which brings me to number 4.

1.    Be honest and humble. Tell God you are hurting, you are in physical pain, that you are burdened. One purpose of suffering is to awaken us toreality. Remember the parable of the prodigal son? The son was honest enough to admit to himself that he was wrong and he needed to go back to his father and ask for forgiveness.
     The apostles told Jesus that “Five loaves and two fish are all we have.” –Mt. 14:17 They were honest to admit that that was all they have.

      When we took our son home from the orphanage, it has been hard for me in the beginning to be honest with myself. I believed that I knew everything about taking care of a toddler. After all, I have been teaching them for several years. I was so wrong. I did not know everything. With all humility I told the Lord I needed His help. My struggle to be a good parent has been the subject of trips to the confessional. I still struggle, I must admit; but the Lord’s grace has moved me to rely on Him.

2.    Obey. Jesus asked the apostles to bring him the five loaves and two fish and they obeyed. The apostle who handed them to Jesus might have been drooling.

“Then he said, “Bring them here to me.” –Mt. 14:18

When we submit ourselves to the will of God, miracles happen. When we separate ourselves from God, that’s when the trouble begins.

Based from my own experiences, I know that it is difficult to obey when you are suffering. How can you think clearly when you are hurting? We ask for the grace to do so.

3.    Put the needs of others first. While the world tells us that we must meet our own needs first; Jesus tells us to serve others first.

“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.” –Mt 14:19

Let us not forget that the apostles were hungry and tired. Yet they gave the crowds loaves first. I wonder how they felt when they realized that the loaves and fish had been multiplied. How did you feel when something unexpected happens, especially after or during suffering?

This is probably the lesson the Lord wants to teach each member in our family now. When my siblings and I were in our younger years, my mother would ask us to clean our room, fix the clothes in our closets or help with the dishes. She said that it would help her a lot if we did our share in the chores. Our hearts were far from the desire to serve our nearest neighbor, our family. This made Mama unhappy but I know she prayed about it a lot.

And thank God for her prayers, I have discovered the joy of serving my family, especially that I have my own. Nowadays, I cook for both households. We live three houses apart. While Ma and Pa are busy with the construction of their house, and while my two brothers who work from home are also busy, I prepare lunch or dinner or sometimes both. I have also witnessed the transformation in my brothers and I must admit, our relationships with each other have also changed, for the better of course.

1.    Have faith. And of course we must have faith. When Jesus handed the apostles the loaves, they believed that everyone would be fed. When God tells us to ‘be still’ do we trust Him to work on whatever we ask of him? Or do we do our own thing just to ‘help God out’ a little?

“They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over – twelve wicker baskets full.” – Mt. 14:20

     When we learn to trust in God amidst our suffering, not only will he ease the hurt or pain or burden, but He will surely provide for whatever we need whether it be materially, emotionally or spiritually.

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