In today's Gospel, the people with Jesus become hungry. They are in a desolate area with limited food resources. But Jesus solves this problem. Does he actually "multiply" the loaves & fish, or does he simply invite the people to share with others the food they have? Whatever, they all have a good meal, and a potentially bad event becomes a good event! How can we tell if an event in our lives is "bad" or "good"? We've heard of people who win the lottery only to have their lives fall apart afterward. Is winning the lottery good or bad for them? We know people who experience a serious misfortune, but in that misfortune they find their way back to God and their family; is their misfortune a bad event or a good event?
There is an ancient story about an elderly peasant who had only a single son and a single stallion to work his farm. The other farmers in the valley had many sons and horses. They pitied him for his poverty; but the old man simply said, "Bad event, good event, who knows?" Then one day, the peasant's stallion bolted from his barn and ran to the mountains, leaving him and his son to plow the hard fields by themselves. His neighbors consoled him, but the elderly man simply said, "Bad event, good event, who knows?"
The very next morning, the farmer's stallion returned, followed by a herd of wild horses. The neighbors were astounded by his good fortune and congratulated the old man; but he simply said, "Bad event, good event, who knows?" Soon after, one of the wild horses threw his son, fell on top of him and broke the son's legs, crippling him for life. The peasants grieved his loss, but the old farmer simply said, "Bad event, good event, who knows?"
Then one day in the early fall, just before harvest time, a local warlord rode into the valley and conscripted every young man into his army; there was only one exception: the crippled son of the old farmer. The other farmers cried out at their misfortune and the old farmer's luck; but the old farmer simply said, "Bad event, good event, who knows?"
Our own lives follow a similar series of "bad events, good events, who knows?" We place our trust in a Loving God as we face each new day, knowing that whatever happens, God is with us!So the important question is: In our life circumstances, shall we be despairing or shall we be hopeful? God's ways often appear to be a bad-event, good-event experience, demanding a continuing affirmation of hope in the midst of chaos. That's what Paul tells us in today's second reading: nothing can separate us from the love of God : nothing! As followers of Jesus, we are steeped in an ongoing story of despair turned to hope, of bad events turned to good, of failure followed by redemption.
Today the church itself is in a "bad event, good event" time, and we are the church! Presently, a stage of faith familiar to us from childhood is dying while a new stage is coming to life. We can despair over the loss, or we can be hopeful for the future, but we can't do both. No seed lives to see its own fruit. The seed we plant at Jesus Our Shepherd is the beginning of a "new way of being church." The ground is hard. The growth is slow. The laborers are still few. But if we remain patient and faithful to the task, the harvest will come. Whether you or I live to witness it is not important. The harvest will come!