Saying the Blessing

Week of May 29, 2016

How often do we pray before meals?   Do we do this when we are in a public place?  The other week I stepped out for an early dinner at a pizza place on Route 34. As my food came, I blessed myself and said a prayer.  The hostess saw this and came up to me and said that that was a real special thing.  I had no idea anyone was watching.  It is how I start all meals.  Of course you would expect that from a priest.  It is always interesting when people invite me over for dinner or out for dinner. There is a pregnant pause when I gather people and they are wondering, “Is he going to insist we pray? Do we always pray?”  It is unique to watch.  Of course we should pray.  It does not have to be a grand gesture for others to see, but lifting up our thanks to God before a meal is an acknowledgement of our reliance on Him.

In the Gospel today, Luke’s translation allows us to see the Lord interacting with the disciples.  He first asks them what they have.  They respond that they do not have very much and that they do not have enough.  Many of us can relate to that sentiment. We believe we do not have enough; we are stretched too thin and cannot handle any more.  He then shows them that they have more than enough.  He takes what they have and not only does He bless it, but he invites them to share it with the vast crowd.  The great miracle goes beyond the feeding of the crowd, it goes to the core that we have more than enough.  Each and everyone one of us has more than enough.  When we give of what we have, it does not diminish what we have, it multiplies it.  This aspect on the miracle is just one part.  We are called to realize we have enough.  All is provided for and when we share what we have, it is multiplied, not diminished.

The other part of the miracle is that everyone was satisfied.  Everyone received what they needed.  And with everyone receiving what they needed, there were even leftovers.  This is not just about food. This is about life.  Satisfaction comes from a relationship with Jesus.  The things of this world will never satisfy us.  The stuff we fill our lives with does not bring us to redemption.  Jesus redeemed us and invites us to be satisfied by the things that this world has no control over.  What satisfies a person is what St. Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians: “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love”. Again this miracle provides the vast crowds with a way to live their lives.  Satisfaction came to the gathering when they shared and broke open all that was taking place.  As they ate, they interacted as a community.  As they ate, they shared the wonder and awe of God.  As they ate, they were able to hear and listen to the others with a compassion that flowed from the experience Jesus was providing for them.

All of this starts with a blessing before the meal.  All of this was begun as Jesus placed the experience into the hands of the heavenly Father.  It was an act of surrender; it was an act of love.  Jesus led by the Spirit, trusting in the Father. Jesus led the disciples and crowd to a fundamental reality of God and the miracle took place in the hearts of the believers.  We all have more than enough and the deepest satisfaction will come from the things not of this world.  When we trust and believe this, the miracle happens for us as well and the experience of belief satisfied will never leave us.

May our meals begin with prayer,

Rev. John J. Ouper