My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.
There is something very human and natural about Jesus' decision to feed the hungry. His "heart is moved with pity" and he acts. Without hesitation or reluctance, without second-guessing, blaming or making excuses for why it might be better not to act, Jesus takes an inventory of their resources -- seven loaves of bread and a couple of fish, a meager amount -- blesses and distributes them to the crowd. Everyone is satisfied!
There are similar stories in the Old Testament: the Hebrews in the desert subsist for forty years on manna; obedient to Elisha's direction a widow filled several empty jugs with oil out of a single jug.
There are similar stories in our Christian tradition. Corrie ten Boom tells how prisoners in a Nazi prison shared a small bottle of vitamin-rich yeast a spoonful at a time for several weeks. Prisoners at Auschwitz, including Saint Maximilian Kolbe, shared their bread with fellow prisoners although they barely survived on a starvation diet.
Sharing is what we do. I don't believe the hypothetical explanations of this miracle -- that Jesus' example inspired the crowd to bring out hidden supplies of food. That misses the point entirely. Rather, God supplies where our efforts fail.
The fact is, we cannot feed all the hungry. True, we have enough food. But our methods of distribution fail largely because we don't want to feed the hungry. We do not have that intention to begin with. We use our food resources for other purposes; to enrich ourselves, to protect our inventory against a rainy day, or as a bargaining chip at negotiating tables.
We cannot overcome these short-sighted, fearful motives.
But the Sacred Heart of God is moved with pity for the crowd. He saves them from starvation.
Advent and Christmas remind us of our pathetic helplessness in the face of our own sin. Try as we might, we cannot save ourselves. The modern consciousness is outraged at the very mention of sin; they beat their chests and fiercely deny that fatal unwillingness to do the right thing.
And so the Lord is born in poverty and helplessness to show us the power of weakness and the courage of obedience. Come let us adore him.