As science and medicine enable more of us live to ripe old ages, or well past the deadlines certain illnesses used to impose, more of us also depend on others to preserve our quality of life. Food and shelter alone aren’t enough. For those of us caring for elderly parents or disabled loved ones, it also requires an endless supply of love and understanding. Finding such a resource can seem as miraculous as the bottomless bread basket from which both Elisha (2 Kgs 4:42-44) and Jesus (Jn 6:1-15) drew to nourish the crowds who came to them for spiritual food.
According to both accounts, such nourishment is not only abundant but leaves leftovers for future needs. This Sunday’s readings include both of those passages, and are good food for thought for all care givers who, at times, reach the limits of their patience with those innocents whom God sometimes uses to help us remember our calling. We are called to be prisoners of passion rather than simply prisoners of our passions.
Those readings about the miraculous feeding of multitudes using seemingly limited resources are suitable pieces of bread to sandwich the meat of Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians (Eph 4:1-6)–Sunday’s second reading–to remember the source of our limitless nourishment supply. That surplus is always available, even when we think we’ve hit the bottom of our basket:
I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit. … Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not leave room for the devil.
As we, God’s caregivers, scrape our fingernails against the false bottom of our capacity for grace, we should never be surprised to find more of the love that has kept us going since the day we as newborns first tested the limits of those who brought us into this world. That same love is what sustains us on the journey from this world to the next.