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Living the Gospel – June 19, 2022

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The men there numbered about 5000. And how many more were women and children? Were they considered to be so insignificant they weren’t even counted? Were they left at home because they had work to do, or were they not believed to be worthy of learning from the Lord? The answer to all was probably yes. In Old Testament times, women were treated as equals (other than allowing them to be priests). But by the time of Christ, Greek and Roman mores had permeated the culture: women were forbidden to be out in public unless heavily veiled and with a servant.

Women were allowed to go to the temple to pray, provided they stayed in their own segregated courtyard. They were not instructed in the faith as it was considered to be foolishness for a daughter to try to learn the Torah. So it is easy to believe the 5000 that day were all men, come to listen and learn while the women stayed in the prison of their homes. But with the coming of Christ, everything began to change.

But it’s too easy to be caught up in the gender disparity and miss the real meaning of this event. Jesus took what was willingly offered and blessed the gift as well as the people. In that way, he transformed both man and bread. He took a minimal amount, and because of the trust the people offered (I imagine those without confidence had already left) was able to multiply their food and their faith. He didn’t just give them a meal; he gave them a surplus. Even though I am just an ordinary woman, today, I am invited by Christ to ignore social and cultural pressures and come before him at the Eucharist.

Yet Jesus hasn’t invited me to just a life of plenty. Surpluses and miracles aren’t what he has in store for me. I’ve been promised enough grace to cover my needs, but I’ve also been assured I still have to carry my cross. He isn’t there to free my life from hardship but rather to guide and support me through the perils of life. Christ provides me with sufficient grace to serve him. Not just the bare necessity of faith, but a surplus, encouraging me to radical belief and total service to others. It is with humble adoration that I join in the feast and can partake in my daily bread.

Linda Crowley