As I reflect on today’s readings, I am struck by the many ways our society lives by a cruel understanding of economic scarcity. This cruelty painfully hit home when I was recently in traffic court proceedings offering support for a friend. Everyone in the court could hear each person’s case and predicament. Person after person could not afford to pay their fine and were burdened with more fines for no reason except being poor. And many people had visible signs of illness or physical disability.
The message of the system I found in court is painfully clear: you are only as valuable as what is in your wallet.
Today’s readings invite us to witness to the miracle of leftovers. Yet, because we tend to live by a vision of economic scarcity, I can relate to Elisha’s servant who sees too little food for too large a crowd. The prophet and Saint Paul both call people of faith to live humbly and generously with and for one another in God’s love. This humble sharing reveals the miracle of leftovers.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus invites the multitude to recline. How refreshing! I hear Jesus saying rest, relax, and enjoy each other’s company. This is “bearing one another in love” as Paul joyfully announces to the Ephesians. Jesus’ simple gesture of giving thanks and distributing the loaves and fishes is the presence of God’s abundant, overflowing love with and for us, especially those most vulnerable among us.
In Ignatian terms, when we give thanks and share who we are and what we have with and for each other, we share the Magis, the abundant more of Jesus loving us and the world. This unimaginable miracle of leftovers is the way of Ignatian solidarity to which we are called.
Alex Mikulich is a Catholic social ethicist and racial equity consultant. He is co-author of The Scandal of White Complicity in U.S. Hyper-Incarceration: A Nonviolent Spirituality of White Resistance (Palgrave 2013 and 2015). He co-edited and contributed to Interrupting White Privilege: Catholic Theologians Break the Silence (Orbis 2007) which won the Theological Book of the Year from the College Theology Society.