July 25, 2021; Jn 6:1-15; 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
A man is sitting in a bus terminal waiting for the bus to Cincinnati. He looks around and sees a machine with a sign that says, “Your height. Your weight. Your future. One Dollar.” He says to himself, “What the heck.” He puts in his dollar and steps on the scale. A little ticket comes out which says: You are five feet, ten inches tall. You weigh 160 pounds. And you are waiting for the bus to Cincinnati. The man is amazed. How did the machine know that? So he decides to fool the machine. He goes into the men’s restroom, turns his baseball cap around, puts on a pair of sunglasses, slips into his jacket and stuffs it with paper towels to make himself look much heavier. Then he comes out and steps on the scale again. Another ticket comes out. You are five feet, ten inches tall. You weigh 160 pounds. And while you were wasting your time in the men’s restroom, you missed the bus to Cincinnati.
Wasting time can be dangerous. You can miss a lot. Each day life flows past us and many things happen. But if we are distracted enough, if we are unattentive, we can miss some things that really matter. If we are always fussing with our cellphone or looking for new videos on social media, if we are so driven to succeed that we are always working and thinking of our career, if we are too concerned about our home, planning improvements and buying new devices, it is possible that we can miss miracles.
This is why Jesus acts the way he does in today’s gospel. Before he feeds the five thousand, before he blesses the five loaves and two fish, he directs his disciples to tell the crowd to recline, to tell the people to sit down. Jesus is well aware that the people can be so involved in conversation and moving around that they would miss what he is about to do. So before he works the miracle, he needs to get their attention. He needs them to notice the gift that they about to receive.
The same is true for us. Everyday, God sends us blessings, graces and opportunities. How many of them do we notice? Do we recognize the gestures of support that come from our spouse or friend? Do we seize the one moment in which it is possible to have a real conversation with our teenage son or daughter? Do we hear the pain in a coworker’s voice? The pain that is really a call for help. Or do we just plod along fussing with this and that as God’s gifts pass us by.
Today’s gospel asks us to recline, to sit down, to pay attention to the gift that God is about to give us. It invites us to take a moment and ask, “Lord, what is it that you want me to see and hear? How do you want me to act and grow?” It is a shame when the bus leaves without us. It is a waste to miss a miracle. So pause and pay attention, so that when God’s food for us arrives, we may eat and be nourished.