Our Scarcity and God’s Abundance
I was born and grew up in the post-war time when Vietnam was recovering from many wars in previous decades. Economic system of the communist government imposed on the whole country was obviously not efficient and sufficient to boost the country out of poverty and the lives of many people were in desperation.
My family, fortunately, was not desperate but merely average. We, my siblings and I, were taught very strictly to save and not to spend, just in case something might happen unexpectedly. That “saving” mentality sticks with me and at times manifests itself in “scarcity” mentality – it might not be enough, I often think.
I think not only those who grow up in financially tough circumstances might have that scarcity mentality. I have spoken to many people who were born rich, more than sufficiently provided materially, but still have doubt that life is not enough.
I think the mentality of scarcity is common with human condition because we are limited but our desires can grow into impossible, selfish ambitions.
The readings this weekend challenge our normal thinking that life is not enough for us, everything is not going to be enough. In the first reading, Elisha’s servant asked: How can twenty barley loaves can be enough for a hundred men? But eventually they ate and even had some over.
Similarly, in the Gospel, Phillip and Andrew struggled with scarcity of food for the large crowd following Jesus. Two hundred denarii were not enough to give each a small piece. Two hundred denarii, back in that time, was like a whole year wage of a hard-working worker. Two fish and five loaves were as nothing to five thousand men (let alone probably ten thousand women that were not mentioned!). Eventually, Jesus fed them all and twelve harpers full of scraps left over from the five barley loaves were collected.
The point of the two readings is to remind us that our God is a God of abundance, an abundant provider who gives us enough and even overflowing. God is not a God of scarcity that we might have imagined ourselves.
On Wednesday evening, I was watching the news about the terrible bushfire happening in Greece which have caused more than eighty people’s deaths. This woman was being interviewed in the middle of the rubbles of her house; and she said to the interviewer that she was very grateful that she was still alive with her son. That was enough for her despite the loss of her house and everything she had.
How often do we feel that our life is enough, whatever we have and wherever we are? Only when we feel and experience the “enough-ness”, the fullness of the life God has graciously given us, we can really follow what St Paul says in the second reading: “Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience.”
Br Khoi msc