The final keynote address of the National Convention of the Catholic Campus Ministry Association featured Archbishop Chaput, who spoke on the theme of Young Adults and Secrets of the Heart. While some of his comments were controversial, I think most people felt that they conveyed a refreshing honesty.
At one point in his talk, he used three passages from the Gospel to illustrate the challenges we face, both in ministering to young people and in our discipleship in general. One of those was the feeding of the multitude, and what he said is a good reminder to all of us. (The other two were Jairus’ daughter and the rich young man.)
Thousands of people are hungry and all that is available are a few loaves of bread an a couple of fish. Phillip and Andrew, he suggested, speak for most of the apostles when they point out the inadequacy of the resources. By their reckoning, there is simply not enough food to feed all those who are hungry.
Regrettably, Phillip and Andrew also often speak for us (and by us he included bishops, priests as well as lay people): We are tempted to give up because the gifts we have to offer seem out of proportion – grossly insufficient – to meet the needs of the community.
Yet, what Jesus did that day was take the offering and transform it to meet the needs at hand. He honored and multiplied the gift of food, no matter how meager, because it was offered selflessly.
Now, as then, God can use what we can offer – even what looks quite meager to human eyes – to create greet deeds. God can use us, the Archbishop observed, exactly as he used the loaves and fishes – the same way (he offered as examples) God used Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, Ignatious of Loyola, Dominic, Edith Stein in unimaginable ways.
God will magnify our gifts, no matter how meager. What we need to do is to let God do so by letting go of our assumptions, our vanities, our own plans.