I am alone in thinking that the amount we throw away seems to grow and grow? It used to be enough to take out the rubbish bags a couple of times a week. Now it’s more like three or even four times a week. Partly, of course, it is the growth of packaging. Some purchases, even simple groceries, are so securely packed that you have to hack your way into them. But I also wonder at the bottles, papers and date-expired food that (to my dismay) I find myself putting in the bin. It's a potent symbol to me of how we live in a world of plenty, because what we are throwing away is paid for by us, consumes valuable resources in its manufacturing or growth, and yet is deemed by us to be dispensable.
Unfortunately, we also live in a world of poverty. There is the undeniable fact that millions of children go to bed hungry each night, in a world where there is more than enough food to go round. How to feed the hungry is the most pressing question of our world. In the gospel today (John 6.1-15) we find that Jesus attends to the practical needs of those who gather in their thousands to hear him. In a miracle of sharing, he distributes what food there is, and it is enough to feed everyone.
Through the centuries, the Church has looked at this story and been struck by the parallels with the eucharist. Jesus takes food, gives thanks, blesses it and distributes it. And, just as the eucharistic food and its living Presence can never be exhausted, so, in this miracle, there is always sufficient.
What makes us reluctant to share and to give? Why do so many, with so much, in a world of plenty, find it impossible to let go of excess? The answer, I think, is fear. We are afraid that if we do not consume more and more, we will fall behind in the rat race of life. We fear that if we do not accumulate, then we will end up with nothing. Victory goes, we think in our heart of hearts, to the materially strong.
Jesus in today's gospel invites us to think again. A small boy becomes the symbol of our need to trust in God. The sharing of food produces not hoarding but more sharing. And more sharing still, until there is more than enough. So, too, with us who approach the eucharist this weekend. In the Living Bread, Christ comes to meet us. We bring our gifts, our skills, our talents, and yes, our possessions. Christ in the Living Bread tells us that we have nothing to fear. And those who have nothing to fear should be more able to find a way to share what they have, so that no one need go without.