Today, our Mother, the Holy Church, nourished us with a passage from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke 9:10-17, which contains the story of the Miraculous Feeding, that great miracle in which our Savior multiplied five loaves and two fish in order to feed a hungry crowd of at least 5,000 in a deserted place. The Holy Apostles were concerned for this multitude, because they were in a deserted place, “in the middle of nowhere,” as we would say today, so they suggested that our Lord permit them to go into the nearest town in order to buy food for themselves. In response, our Lord told the Holy Apostles to find food for them, but all they could find were five barley loaves and two fish. Our Lord took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them to the disciples to distribute; He then did the same with the fish. Everyone ate and was filled, and when they gathered the leftovers, they found twelve baskets full. When the people witnessed this great sign, they believed in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Just like the multitude, don’t we sometimes find ourselves in a deserted place in our spiritual lives? Don’t we sometimes feel like there is a desert in our souls, where we feel our relationship with God is dry and stony, where we experience lack of faith and fear? Isn’t that the deserted place within all of us?
Sometimes, we feel as though our spiritual life is dried up and nothing is growing because there is no living water, no source of growth. It could be because there is some sin that we wish we could stop, but cannot, or perhaps we are simply depressed or overwhelmed by life and the cares of this world — there is too much going on, too much to handle. Sometimes, we feel a desert in our soul, because we attempt to pray and ultimately feel as though God hasn’t heard our prayers, because He did not grant our wish. In all of these situations, we feel as though our soul is in a deserted place.
One of the most important lessons of today’s Gospel reading is that, when we find ourselves in this state, we have to avoid going to the town at all costs. Think about it: what would have happened if the multitude would have been sent away into the town to buy food for themselves? They would have missed the miracle. In the same way, when we are in a deserted place within our souls, we have to be careful to avoid the town, because we will miss the miracle that Christ wishes to perform within us, a miracle of transformation through His Divine and healing presence.
Practically speaking, going into the town refers to how we respond to the things that trouble us by leaving God and trying to find nourishment and healing in the world. Going into the town refers to how we respond to periods of depression or lack of faith by seeking worldly entertainment so that we can forget what is really wrong with our lives. Think about how we spend our days, for example. What we should be doing is striving to continually speak to God and offer ourselves to Him so that He may nourish our dry souls and bring us back to normalcy. This is what we should do, but what do we actually do?
Instead, we look for something to watch on television or Netflix. When we tire from sitting in front of the television, we get our laptops and spend hours surfing the Internet, even if we don’t have a specific thing we’re looking for. When we tire of the Internet, we text a friend. When we’re tired of that, we eat something that is most likely unhealthy and then we go back to the television, and so on and so forth. For a growing number of people, this cycle represents life. Sadly, throughout this miserable cycle, we are turning our backs on the miracle that Christ wants to perform. He is ready to transform our soul from a deserted place into a place that is alive with His presence. Tragically, we don’t ask Him to do this. We go to the world for our nourishment and miss the miracle.
When we find that our soul is in a deserted place, we must invite the Lord into that dryness and wait for Him to transform us. This is why, in the version of this story from St. Matthew, when the Holy Apostles suggested the multitude go away into the towns, our Lord simply responded, “They don’t need to go away.” Those words are for us. We don’t need to go away into the storehouses of the world in order to deal with the deserted place in our souls. If we turn to God, He is able to nourish and provide for us even at the worst times of drought.
In the most barren moments of our lives, the Lord will perform miracles.