There is a saying that goes: “People will not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
The episode of the multiplication of the loaves is reported six times in the Gospel (twice in Matthew and Mark and once each in Luke and John). Because this episode is found in all the gospels we can conclude that it evidently left quite an impression on the community of the first disciples. It is in the multiplication of the loaves that we get a view of how much our Lord and our God does indeed care for his people. Matthew writes that when our Lord disembarked and saw the crowd, “his heart was moved with pity for them…” (Mt. 14:15)
God does indeed care for us, God does have a heart that can be moved with pity and it is through this that we also realize how we, in turn, are to care for one another as disciples of Christ.
As Christians; we proclaim a certain type of God who we have come to know specifically through the revelation of Christ. If God were to have created everything and set it in motion but then stepped back, leaving creation to its own devices – we might honor God, we might understandably be fearful of God but I do not think we could say that we “love” God nor that God loves us. But this is not the God we Christians proclaim. Our God is not content to leave us to our own devices. Our God has indeed entered into the human scene and not just to correct and instruct us but also to take on our suffering, our misfortune, our poverty and even our guilt. Even though himself guiltless; Christ took on our guilt.
We proclaim a God who cares and, in turn, this reveals how we, ourselves, are to care. In today’s gospel passage (Mt. 14:13-21) it can be said that the disciples were being quite thoughtful in regards to the situation of the crowd. The disciples see the vast crowd of people and they recognize that it is indeed late and so they say to our Lord, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But our Lord asks something more of his disciples and this important to note. He responds, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.”
In this passage we see that our Lord is moving his disciples (which means all of us) beyond “the well-rooted habit of saying, ‘Every man for himself!’ or ‘Let the authorities take care of it!'” (quote from Bishop Vincenzo Paglia) to “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” Our Lord is asking us as his disciples to remain with the poor and not to worry if we will navigate the situation perfectly but just to remain. It is here, in this “remaining”, that our Lord turns and asks each of us, “How will you show that you care?”
Our world today is very concerned about efficiency and this is found across all spheres of life (business, government, ecclesial, social). One might even say that there is a dictatorship of efficiency. Time must be managed correctly and therefore relationships also, certain goals must be met and achieved, all things must be backed up (all i’s must be dotted and all t’s must be crossed). Yes, there is certainly a place and a value for efficiency but I do not think efficiency was the primary concern of our Lord. Rather, the primary concern – I believe – was the care of souls. The Lord’s “heart was moved with pity.” The care of souls is often (from my experience) a messy endeavor and anything but the most “efficient” of endeavors.
It may not be the most “efficient” thing to remain while also not knowing the best way to necessarily navigate a situation but this is what our Lord asks us to do. “There is no need for them to go away…” It is in the remaining that our Lord meets us and he asks us to show that we care.
People will not care how much you know until they know how much you care.