To Bring God Joy
She burst with pleasure while she baked. A young bride labored all afternoon with yeast and flour. Her husband would come home after a tiring day. He would walk in to smell the risen bread. She daydreamed and hummed away as she worked, knowing what joy her labors would bring. In this way, we have to learn to rejoice in our labors for God.
There is so much menial work in the Christian life. A small parish can be the most demanding. Everyone has a role to play. Bills need to be paid. Bulletins have to get printed. The floor needs vacuuming. The weeds need pulling. On top of that, our everyday lives are filled with more menial work. Too often, we lose the joy in all this. Indeed, we have to cultivate a habit, the habit of meditating on the joy we bring to God.
Christ asked: “How many loaves do you have?” They were out in the desert. Some 4,000 or more had followed Christ for three days, listening to Him preach. Now they were hungry. So Christ called the disciples together and tested them. “How many loaves?” “Seven loaves,” they replied. Heaven smiled at that moment.
Seven loaves — so little, from a worldly perspective. In recent months, farms across America have been devastated by the Coronavirus shutdown. With restaurants closed nationwide, farmers are forced to destroy countless livestock, potatoes, wheat, and all manner of produce. There is too much food and too little demand. The USDA granted 19 billion dollars to assist the agriculture industry. Yet, these efforts do not begin to suffice for all the loss. You can imagine the farmer holding his stimulus check from Uncle Sam, while gazing at his ruined fields. It is so little. In the same way, we can look at the little we have to offer to God, as the disciples gazed at those seven loaves. Yet, for God, the seven loaves were everything.
In one of his commentaries, St. Bede of England writes a remarkable little line about our Gospel today. It is just a sentence, a passing note about Christ giving thanks for the seven loaves, and it says so much:
“His giving of thanks shews how great a joy He feels in the salvation of the human race.”
“How great a joy.” Why would Jesus be filled with joy? So Jesus can work miracles. It is not any problem to Him to feed four thousand with nothing. In fact, he could have snapped his fingers and turned all the rocks on the hill into bread. Put a pause on the Gospel story and step back for an instant. Look at this passing moment. Seven loaves are handed to Christ and he overflows with joy. The same God who watched the spectacle of the universe come into motion and walked in the beauty of the Garden of Eden — this same God was filled up with joy when he was handed a little bread. This is how God feels with all our small efforts to serve him. He is not waiting for anything grand or supernatural. He is simply waiting to see if we will give him what we have, and that is his joy.
There is a saying in Wales. “Do the little things in life.” It stems from the last words spoken by St. David of Wales, the Sunday before his death. “Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things that you have heard and seen me do.” Do you remember the widow who gave her last mite?
“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything’” (Mark 12:41-44).
She gave out of her poverty. She won heaven by the little things. This is the kind of giving God is looking for.
So where are you impoverished? All of us live in poverty, of some kind. We live with our shortcomings. Maybe your health is frail. You are sick and tired. You feel incompetent, ignored, or useless. God rejoiced when the widow gave out of her poverty. He rejoiced when the boy handed him his last seven loafs. Despite all our shortcomings and insecurities, because of our shortcomings and insecurities, how will God rejoice when we give Him what we have got?
‘How many loaves do you have?’ They said, ‘Seven.’ Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd” (Mark 8:5-6).
This scripture is steeped in God’s joy. After breaking the bread, our Lord distributed it to his disciples. Now, you can be sure he did not need their help. If he could multiply seven loaves to feed four thousand, he could have distributed the bread however it pleased him. He could have commanded the heavenly host to do the share. But God has pleasure to see his men and women accomplish holy work, in all the little things.
‘We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Eph 2:10).
I remember watching my dad prepare the coffee in the morning. Each and every day, he would prepare a cup of coffee and a glass of juice, and bring that to my mom in bed. It was his little thing to do. What struck me, as a child, was the joy in his face, a joy to simply bring joy to his beloved. Last night, as I was kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament during Benediction, I had a moment of sharing that joy with my dad. As simple as it is to kneel before God in worship, we get to give Him joy. What a wonder! In all the little things through the day, in paying the bills, in changing light bulbs, and in simply standing in vigil in holy worship, we bring God pleasure. May God nurture in us a habit of meditating on the joy we bring Him in all these little things.