Andrew Robinson ‘17
Of all the powerful mythical creatures J.R.R. Tolkien could have dreamed up in his Lord of the Rings series to undertake the perilous and daunting task of destroying the dark powers of the Ring, he put the destiny of Middle-earth in the hands of Frodo Baggins, a hobbit. Hobbits are distinguished for being diminutive, stout, humble creatures—certainly not archetypal “heroes.”
Perhaps, however, my view of heroism is distorted. After all, God’s plan also seems to be littered with unlikely protagonists. Moses, whose speech impediment makes him an improbable leader, leads the Israelites to the promised land. David, the youngest in his family, begins Jesus’ lineage. Peter, who doubts and denies Jesus, is the rock upon which Jesus builds the Church. Mary, a modest young woman and a virgin, bears the Son of God and plays a central role in salvation history. Then, in today’s Gospel, an anonymous boy with a meager five loaves and two fish allows Jesus to feed a crowd of 5,000.
Confronting the problems we see in our world can seem daunting—much like the task of destroying the Ring or feeding 5,000 people. Crime, global poverty and hunger, terrorism, political strife, and social inequality would certainly take much more than the restrictive “six months’ wages” of this Gospel to solve even in their most localized forms. Well-intentioned as we may be, we can become jaded and cynical about our ability to change things.
Fortunately, God knows we are limited and only asks that we offer what we have—our own five loaves and two fish. In other words, God asks us to commit small acts with an attitude of self-sacrifice. Mary exemplifies this attitude perfectly: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Biblical figures, such as the boy in today’s Gospel, remind us that humility is not the opposite of heroism. Humility does not mean sheepishly submitting to our powerlessness. Rather, Christian humility means acknowledging our reliance on God with confidence that our meager offerings will be multiplied.