Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.” ~ Matt 15.32
We all have “last straw” moments in our lives, when we feel we simply cannot bear the weight of one more demand. The final insult, the umpteenth affront, the “n + 1” problem, and we snap, sometimes in spectacular anger, sometimes in silent self-pity. But those last straw moments are precisely the occasions on which God challenges us to imitate the patience and generosity of Christ in today’s Gospel. Jesus has just concluded three exhausting days healing the crowds on a rugged hilltop by the Sea of Galilee. He has made the mute speak, the deformed whole, the lame walk and the blind able to see. Although Matthew makes no mention of it, we can imagine the emotional intensity of these three days, and how drained Jesus must have felt at their end.
Yet even in this moment of supreme exhaustion, when a new problem arises—that of the crowd’s hunger—Christ shows himself completely oriented to others. He calls his disciples and expresses concern and compassion for the people who have had nothing to eat. When he might understandably have nothing left to give, he draws on a deep reserve of generosity to give still more, thus creating abundance out of insufficiency.
The next time we face a situation that threatens to push us beyond our capacity, we might try to turn it into an opportunity for compassionate self-giving instead. We can respond not with “I’ve had it!” but rather with “I have it,” that is, “I do have the generosity of spirit that is needed for this moment.”
God of the loaves and fishes, Throughout the busy day, grant me the grace to give to others lovingly and faithfully, even—and especially—when I feel least able to do so. Amen.
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