Miracle of Sharing
Joey Velasco is a religious artist. His most popular artwork is “Hapag ng Pag-asa” (Table of Hope) in which he re-cast the Last Supper where Jesus shares his last meal with street children. If you were to contemplate on this thought-provoking version of the Last Supper; staring at the sad and empty faces of the children in the painting, you will feel a sense of disquiet. Somehow your conscience is pricked by the overwhelming poverty of the scene.
The most touching character is the little boy under the table sharing crumbs with a stray cat. Joey explains that this character is inspired by a Pulitzer Prize – award winning feature photograph done by Kevin Carter in 1994. Kevin was in Sudan in 1993 at the height of the country’s famine. He took a picture of a starving little girl, crawling towards a United Nation food camp located a kilometers away. Behind this toddler is a hungry vulture waiting for the child to die so that it can eat her up. When this photo appeared in New York Times, it shocked the world. Three months later, they say, Carter committed suicide. He got depressed.
Instead, Joey finds hope in this surrealistic symbol of poverty because the children have Jesus. With Jesus, we always have hope.
In the gospel (Jn 6:1-15), like the prophet Elisha, Jesus feeds the people in the desert. There were five thousand of them not counting women and children. He does this extraordinary miracle using 5 loaves and 2 fishes provided by a young boy among the crowd. There are 3 things in scripture which we can learn from Jesus:
1. We learn compassion
Jesus has a compassionate heart. He is sensitive to the needs of people; he feels and understands their tragedies. Instead the disciples had a “compassion fatigue.” The sight of so many hungry mouths to feed broke their hearts. “How can we feed so many with so little.” It pushed their spirits to helpless and lack of faith. They have given up easily.
Compassion can create miracles. To illustrate this point: in 1983-1985, a widespread famine also affected Ethiopia. It was the worst in a century – half a million died. The known cause was drought. But a bit part of this tragedy was man-made; due to human rights abuses and wrong government policies. One response to his famine was USA for Africa (United Support of Artists for Africa). Led by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, they recorded a hit song “We are the World.” The revenues for all these initiatives of compassion was almost $100 million. It was a miracle of teamwork.
2. We learn to value small things
Jesus gave thanks even for small things. So we take nothing for granted. Big things start from small beginnings. Once I read the accounts of some people who survived the 9/11 US attack in 2001. Their stories were about little things. One employee was late because he brought his son to kindergarten. Another was alive because it was his turn to buy donut. But the most striking was that guy who put on a new pair of shoes. On the way he developed blisters on his feet. He stopped to buy band-aid. So he was alive! God has a purpose for little things that come our way.
3. We learn to be generous.
Life is a matter of give and take. As one writer puts it: “no one is so poor that he cannot enrich his neighbor; no one is so rich that he does not need the help of others.” Many times, the problem is not “what to give” but rather the crisis of generosity. Our fist is as closed as our heart. Thus we become insensitive and blinded by selfishness. If a person’s heart is closed, he can have all the reasons not to share. But if a person’s heart is as big as the heart of Jesus, he can give even if it hurts.