(part of the series on Faithful Citizenship)
By Frank Lesko, Coordinator of Justice and Peace
I often feel like I am trying to feed 5,000 with only a few loaves and fish whenever I bring my faith into the political sphere. What could my one little vote do? What difference will yet another petition make? The problems are so immense; my efforts seem so small.
I wonder what the initial reaction was when that little boy came forward in today’s Gospel. There was a massive problem–a multitude had assembled and they were in need. It might have seemed ridiculous when that boy showed up to contribute five barley loaves and two fish.
A historical point: Barley was the food of the poor at the time of Jesus. This was a kid who did not have much to give. On top of that, he did not offer only his leftovers. Rather, he simply gave what he had.
A few weeks ago, Franciscan Care for Creation ministry led a petition campaign against hydraulic fracking after weekend Masses. The signatures supported the Governor in her veto, even though her veto was ultimately overturned in the legislature. Is that the end of the story?
The feedback from that event showed ripple effects all over. Many folks were happy to see this effort being made. It caused a stir. Conversations and debates happened. People were nourished for their journey and inspired in their faith. One person told me that they had a non-Catholic guest with them at Mass who was impressed to see this. God took some small efforts and used it to feed multitudes.
Our faith calls us to trust in God’s abundance. Our faith calls us to stay engaged even when it would seem like the most sensible thing to pull up stakes and give up. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), Jesus calls us blessed when we continue to hunger and thirst for justice, because when we look at the odds, the sensible choice would have us not even try.
This is why a faith community such as ours can take the lead in advocating for causes that the rest of society would never attempt. Throughout history, faith communities have been first on the scene, such as when it did not look like the abolition of slavery nor the civil rights movement had a prayer. Yet, with an impetus of faith, people put their loaves and fishes in play. And the multitudes were fed.