There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?
An attitude of scarcity pervades our outlook when we are deprived of faith. Reason naturally asks the question above; mathematically, how can five loaves be divided for 5000 men and their families? But the context of the meal is a gathering around Jesus. One would hope that the crowd was coming for something greater than a great feast provided through earthly riches. We know from Jesus’ words elsewhere that for some it was simply a matter of being temporally satisfied. He says in John, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled." Then he admonishes them, "Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you." He says this in John 6 where he goes on to speak of His body as "real food" and His blood as "real drink". The truth at stake here is whether we are dealing with an uncreated reality beyond the aspect of our senses, what we can see and measure with our natural sciences.
I grew up in a time when there was a great "over-population" scare and a corresponding emphasis on birth control out of love for our planet and a sufficient supply of resources. Time and reason has taught us that in fact we are facing a "demographic winter", a complete collapse of the human population, especially in the west where the theory of over-population was spread with great zeal. The truth then, as it is today, is that the greatest problem is not too many people for too few resources; rather, our most pressing problem is a simple lack of love. Love gladly shares with others who are in need, both in material goods as well as intellectual property and spiritual riches. When we love we are no longer in competition with our neighbors, even when they are enemies.
Along with the virtue of love, the virtue of faith helps us see beyond the physical and logistical obstacles to providing for those who really don’t have enough of this world’s resources. How do we get food, shelter, clothing and other human essentials to people, even in Renton, who lack these basics? This question alone can stretch us beyond our comfort zone of dependence on temporal solutions. There is a beautiful story in the life of St. John Vianney, the Cure D'Ars, who established an orphanage in his parish for the many girls in that area of France who were without family and a safe place to live and grow. They lived on providence, day to day reliance on God providing for their needs. At one point they had run out of food for the 30+ girls. There was only a handful of corn up in the attic. The good Cure placed a relic of St. Francis Regis in the corn and then asked his children to beg God for their daily bread. One of the servants went to check the attic and could barely open the trap door. Grain poured out. The attic was full of new corn.
We should begin each day prepared to face new challenges with an attitude of abundance. God provides for His will to be done. Normally He prefers to work through natural law and the virtuous cooperation of humanity to care for one another. We start there, seeking to be vessels of grace, conduits, not cesspools. God’s grace is meant to give life to ourselves and those we are responsible to. To do that we need great faith, hope and love. May Jesus heal us of any fears or doubts that keep us from following Him. Like the boy in today’s Gospel, we bring our five loaves, our two fish, and see what God can do with them. We stand to be amazed.
Some of the core principles in the Spiritual Exercise of St. Ignatius that are most practical are the Rules for Discernment. While they pertain to the first two weeks of the 30-day retreat, I think they are of perennial value. I found myself referring to them late in my retreat and they provided immediate consolation. I hope to begin copying a few of them here each week to share with you. Ignatius begins:
 RULES TO AID US TOWARD PERCEIVING AND THEN UNDERSTANDING, AT LEAST TO SOME EXTENT, THE VARIOUS MOTIONS WHICH ARE CAUSED IN THE SOUL: THE GOOD MOTIONS THAT THEY MAY BE RECEIVED, AND THE BAD THAT THEY MAY BE REJECTED. These rules are more suitable for the First Week.
 The First Rule. In the case of persons who are going from one mortal sin to another, the enemy ordinarily proposes to them apparent pleasures. He makes them imagine delights and pleasures of the senses, in order to hold them fast and plunge them deeper into their sins and vises.
But with persons of this type the good spirit uses a contrary procedure. Through their good judgment on problems of morality he stings their consciences with remorse.
 The Second Rule. In the case of persons who are earnestly purging away their sins, and who are progressing from good to better in the service of God our Lord, the procedure used is the opposite of that described in the First Rule. For in their case it is characteristic of the evil spirit to cause gnawing anxiety, to sadden, and to set up obstacles. In this way he unsettles these persons by false reasons aimed at preventing their progress.
But with persons of this type it is characteristic of the good spirit to stir up courage and strength, consolations, tears, inspirations, and tranquility. He makes things easier and eliminates all obstacles, so that the persons may move forward in doing good.