Author: Bishop Makarios of Qena
This sermon was taken from HG Bishop Makarios’ personal diary. To be read on the Eve of the first Sunday of the month of Baba of the Coptic Calendar.
The miracle of feeding the five thousand with five loaves and two fish occupies a prominent place in the four Gospels among the miracles performed by our LORD, God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The one thing that draws the most attention is the words of our Savior: “You give them something to eat.” (Matthew 14:16) Let us go back in time, about twenty centuries ago, and let us imagine that we were among the multitudes who had the pleasure of being in the presence of the LORD, and that we heard Him say to his pure disciples, “You give them something to eat.” All that was within their reach were five loaves and two fish. What would we have been thinking? Would we have imagined that the disciples would satisfy these thousands with only five loaves and two fish? If we were there, we would have walked away perplexed, as it defies reason and logic, going against the common proverb that says, “If you would like to be obeyed, ask within reason.”
However, what had occurred after this by our Savior was contrary to the laws of human nature, and here the miracle happened. He took the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to His disciples. The disciples distributed the food to the multitudes and all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained.
First, the believer must offer something to the LORD Jesus Christ, even if it is simple in nature. This offering must be made with a joyful heart; similar to the widow who offered two mites and whom the LORD Jesus considered the most generous, having given all of her livelihood.
The Law of Moses determines the share of the LORD, the tithe: the tenth of one’s income, the tenth of one’s possessions, in short, the tenth of everything. Nevertheless, in the age of grace, the LORD, glory be to Him, commands us saying, “That unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)
The Divine wisdom in this matter is clear; our Holy God does not want us to be like calculators, void of feelings and only giving the tithes. Instead, He desires to see human hearts which feel the pain of the poor and the struggle of the indigent, the distressed, the orphan, and the widow. Thus, we become generous as He is generous, without regard for an exact percentage. In other words, He left us free to estimate! This way, our offerings can reach 100%, as the widow’s two mites had done, or 90%, 80%, 30%, with a minimum of 20% or 15%.
Here my beloved, we see the glory of the Christian faith, which if we follow it in our life, would root out poverty, ignorance, disease, and every social pathology we complain of in our society. Give, my brother. Give the LORD. Do not be afraid. Do not close your heart to the poor, indigent, and distressed—those whom the Author of the laws of perfection called His brethren. Oh what an unspeakable greatness! Who would provide us with a loud voice to spread the knowledge of these great virtues amongst all the people, amongst the Christian congregation in all parts of the earth? Five loaves and two fish were so honorable that, through the blessings of the LORD, they were enough to satisfy the thousands.
We who live during these times are not surprised now that the little that was in the hands of the LORD had become much, and beyond much. What then can we learn from what our good Teacher had done in this wonderful miracle?
This brings us to the second point, which is of more importance and is broader. The LORD said, “You give them something to eat.” A shepherd provides his flock with the good pasture. The same is true of the spiritual shepherd, who has to provide spiritual food to his flock—those whom were given to him by the LORD to shepherd. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the spiritual shepherd to pray fervently for his sheep, and not merely just recite prayers. Do we really obey the LORD’s commandment, “You give them something to eat,” or do we hear but not follow, read but not understand?
Now is the time to move from stagnant faith to practical faith—the faith which works through love. Atheism has spread, which essentially is the deceptive, hypocritical belief which is worse than infidelity. The number of pagan people has doubled, particularly in Asia. Therefore, the community of believers in each country must rise up from their slumber and work on spreading the true spiritual culture, especially among children and young people who are the future of the Church.
Third, we ought to always be thankful. We ought to be thankful when we go about eating our daily meals, and before we start our daily chores. The LORD has taught us by this miracle that blessings cannot be attained except by lifting the eyes and the heart to God, to thank Him for all His countless blessings. I wonder how many Christian families offer thanksgiving to God when they gather for meals. Who among the mothers out there teaches her children to pray in all circumstances and offer thanks to the LORD for all that He provided them with, blessings and gifts, whether spiritual or materialistic?
How beautiful is this sentence in the Prayer of Thanksgiving: “We thank You for every condition, concerning every condition, and in every condition.” So we thank God for good health or disease, for abundance or scarcity, in good times or in difficult ones. Through thanksgiving, our blessings are increased, disasters are prevented, and the little we may have, through God’s grace, is turned to plenty.
Ten lepers had come to Jesus asking for healing. The LORD had compassion on them and healed them all, and they left to go back on their way. However, only one of them—just one, who happened to be a Samaritan—went back to thank Him. Then the LORD said, “were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’ And He said to him, ‘Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:17-19) This implies that the other nine were not saved, since they did not offer thanks to the LORD for the good that He had done to them.
Finally, the remaining fragments of the LORD’s blessings should be given attention. The LORD of Glory has taught us an amazing lesson via the twelve baskets of remaining fragments. How many indigent, poor, and needy had benefited from those remaining morsels? I wonder. Nevertheless, never forget God’s word in the book of Proverbs, “Honor the LORD with your possessions and with the first fruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.” (Proverbs 3:9-10)
In spite of that, the LORD accepts to Himself the little and the much; He accepts the remaining fragments as well as the first fruits, given that they were offered out of generosity and a heart full of love and faith. Therefore, let us work hard, knowing that God will not look at what we say or hear, but rather, at what we offer in charitable deeds without deceit or hypocrisy, but with a clean conscience and sound faith.
We entreat the Holy LORD to bless us, have mercy upon us, and spread reconciliation and peace in all corners of this restless world, through the intercessions of our Lady, our Queen, the Mother of God, St. Mary and all martyrs and saints, and through the prayers of our blessed father, His Holiness Pope Kyrollos VI, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark To the LORD of all ages, who is eternal and unseen, the God full of wisdom, be due all glory and honor to the end of all ages. Amen.
Ref: Miracles of the Thrice Blessed His Grace Late Bishop Makarios of Qena (Book 2), p. 10 – 13