Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
LET US GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD
I give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart. Psalm 9:1
Now when Jesus heard this, He withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart. But when the crowds heard it, they followed Him on foot from the towns. As He went ashore He saw a great throng; and He had compassion on them and healed their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to Him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to me.” Then He ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass; and taking the five loaves and the two fish He looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. Matthew 14:13-21
Good morning Prayer Team!
This week, we will cover five passages from the Bible that relate to gratitude. Today’s passage is the well-known miracle of the five loaves and the two fish and how they were multiplied to feed over five thousand people.
There were two key ingredients that were needed in order for this miracle to take place. The first was the generosity of those who offered the five loaves and the two fish. We are not told if these things were offered by one person or several. Regardless, there were over five thousand people sitting on a hillside and no more than seven people had food to eat. If one thousand people shared a loaf of bread, that would be a mere crumb for each of them. If 2,500 people shared a fish, the amount of food would be miniscule.
Imagine now if you had been one of those people who had some food, sitting in the midst of the multitude of people who had no food. Would you have offered your only food, realizing that dividing up what you had would result in hardly anything coming back to you? This person or people trusted enough to offer all of whatever little they had to the common good of five thousand people.
What motivates people to share? I would say the answer is gratitude. You might argue that abundance might be a motivating factor. However, many people have no concept abundance. They have plenty and do not share. The motivating factor, I believe, for why people take what they have and share it with someone else is gratitude for what they have and a desire to offer it to someone else so that others may enjoy the same that they have. The person or people who offered the loaves and fish looked at the hungry crowd and desired to share what little they had so that others could have sustenance as well.
I’m sure that these people wondered if their contribution would make any difference for so many people. And perhaps they wondered how much bread and fish they would get back. But they offered anyway. And this was the key to the whole miracle. For how was the Lord going to multiply nothing?!
Which brings us to the second necessary part of this miracle, which is that the Lord blessed what was offered and multiplied it to a degree that not only was everyone satisfied, but there were abundant leftovers. When we offer to God, with gratitude and trust, He takes what we offer and He multiplies it. Perhaps He multiplies it back with blessings to us. More often, He multiplies it with blessings on others. And most often, He multiplies it with blessings on both us and others.
I’m reminded of the story “The Star Thrower”, which is one of my all-time favorite stories. In the story a young boy is walking on a beach where thousands of starfish are laying on the sand. Apart from the water, they will soon die. The boy takes a starfish and flings it back into the water. And then another and another. An old man is walking on the beach and asks the boy what he is doing. The boy offers that he is throwing the starfish back in the water in order to save them. The old man cynically says to the boy that there are thousands of starfish on the beach and what possible difference could he make. To which the boy responds, as he throws a starfish into the ocean “I made a difference for that one.”
That little boy couldn’t save all the starfish, but he could save a lot of them. Individually, we cannot end world hunger, but we can feed plenty of hungry people. Because help starts with an effort to share. And the effort to share comes with gratitude for having something to share. The little boy had time. The people on the hillside had bread and fish. And they made a difference. May we do the same.
Lord, thank You for the many blessings in my life. Thank You for the things I have (mention some of them). Help me to be grateful for what I have, and to offer in thanksgiving, from what I have, to others who are in need and don’t have. Help me to trust and to give with joy. And through whatever I am offering, multiply Your blessings on the things I am offering and to those to whom I am offering them. Amen.
Do something today, even something small, that makes a difference for someone else!
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