photo of Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA

Feed the 5000

There is a subtle hum of joyful anticipation in the air. Flights have been confirmed. Turkeys and cranberries bought. Pies readied for the oven.

Thanksgiving, I’ve heard over and over again, is many people’s favorite holiday. It brings out the best in us – gathering around the table to celebrate family and friendship. It also is the one week out of the year that as a nation we gather food and funds to feed our neighbors who don’t have the financial wherewithal to set out a lavish Thanksgiving spread.

It reminds me of the miracle performed by Jesus in the fields of Bethsaida: the Feeding of the Five Thousand.

Jesus, looking for a little quiet time as we all do, found himself surrounded by crowds of people who had left their towns to follow him. Evening approached and it was clear that this now huge throng could soon turn into a hungry mob. The disciples, who frequently had trouble coming up with the right thing to do, suggested that Jesus dismiss the crowd so they could go and buy something for their dinner. Jesus, however, had another idea.

“There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.”

But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”

Then he said, “Bring them here to me,” 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.

They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over—twelve wicker baskets full. (Matthew 14:15-20)

Our Thanksgiving traditions echo this Gospel. We feed extended family and welcome friends. We organize community dinners so no one need be home alone. We take some of what we have bought and give it to food pantries. There are even leftovers.

The important thing here, though, is that we follow in the steps of Jesus by feeding thousands of five thousands on this one day each year. We may not perform miracles, but we bring the Gospels to life in an extraordinary outpouring of love for our neighbor without judgment. In doing so we demonstrate our love for God and each other.

I’d like to give you something else to chew on as you reach for seconds this Thursday. What would our nation look like if we acted like this during the other 51 weeks of the year? If we can dwell in the house of the Lord—in love—on this day, why not every day?

I am convinced that we can, that we should, and that we must. For the love of God.