I arrived home the other day to find one of the kids next door playing in the driveway of my residence. When I asked the nine-year old how he was doing, his answer was “Not so good!” He then proceeded to tell me, in obviously deep frustration, about some difficulties he was having with a toy that needed fixing. He then ran off, leaving me feeling relieved that he had not asked me to fix the toy, because I would have had no idea what needed to be done.
“Not so good.” How often do we give that same answer about ourselves, not because a toy needs fixing but our lives do? Sickness, financial problems, family tension or dysfunction, addictions, lack of meaning and direction, or just a general sense that “something is not right” mark our lives and we are often not sure what needs to be done to fix the problem.
Keeping this in mind, a line from the Gospel passage proclaimed on Sunday stands out. John 6:1-15 recounts the familiar story of the multiplication of the loaves and fish. The problem besetting the people is hunger and the challenge facing the disciples is how to feed thousands of people with the very little food available. St. John tells us that Jesus himself “knew what he was going to do.” Jesus knew then what needed to be done, just as he knows now what needs to be done in answer to the brokenness of humanity.
This raises an obvious question. Shall we simply lament our lot in frustration or despair, or shall we turn to the one who knows what needs to be done? Here we encounter the Gospel’s call to faith. Jesus is our Lord and God, who has manifested his love for us and promised to remain with us always. Do we believe in his love, or don’t we? Do we trust in his power to save, or do we stay caught in the illusion of self-reliance? St. John, later in one of his letters, summarized the fundamental Christian disposition in this way: “we have known and believe the love that God has for us.” (1 John 4:16) Putting this “knowing and believing” into action means surrendering in trust to the Lord’s wisdom and providence, and allowing him to lead us by hearing and doing his Word. The act of faith springs from the humble admission that Jesus knows what needs to be done, and we don’t.
The Gospel narrative from Sunday also teaches that, when we surrender to Christ and place all in his hands, miracles happen! The state of “not so good” is transformed into “very good indeed!”
To whom are we listening? Let’s be sure to listen to the Lord and follow him, because he knows what needs to be done.