From Grace in the Wilderness
When they were satisfied, Jesus told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” (John 6:12)
We waste an awful lot. Food, time, energy, water, money. The list goes on. Ours is a disposable society. Everything is important, but nothing matters much.
We waste words. Many speak. Few say anything. No wonder so few listen.
We waste opportunities. They fly by every second of our lives. Every once in a while, we grab one and make the most of it. Most pass by unnoticed, never to return.
We waste knowledge, emotions, actions.
We waste joy, sadness, courage, fear, conviction, uncertainty, pleasure, pain.
We waste people. If we’re honest, we’ll admit we often pay attention only to those whom we like, and who like us.
We waste death. Life is cheap.
We waste the grandeur of mystery, the glorious gifts that drench us from above each and every moment we spend on this Earth. The Kingdom of Heaven is budding all around us, but we see dimly.
More than anything, we waste love. God’s love. Love of ourselves. The love of others.
But all is not lost. Not even close.
At the beginning of the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel Jesus feeds 5,000 people. All they had were five barley loaves (the food of the poor) and two fish. It wasn’t much. In fact, it wasn’t anything at all. They needed food, but had too little. Jesus fed them all. They had their fill and were satisfied.
Often overlooked, though, is this passage: When they were satisfied, Jesus told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” Some translations present the last phrase as: “so that nothing will be wasted.” Either way, it’s an important sentence. Why do you think Jesus cared about all the leftovers? Why did the writer of the gospel feel it necessary to report this? As the end of John says, Jesus did many other things that were never recorded. This one was.
Much more than a meal is going on here. Jesus is providing more than food for the hungry. These acts – this mystery – signifies something else, something much greater.
God provides for those who need, for those who have nothing (which is really each one of us, in one respect or another). God gives us himself. Jesus gathers us, feeds us, and fills us with bread from Heaven. The Body of Christ then becomes what it receives. We are what we eat, as the saying goes.
Then, when we are filled, Jesus instructs us as his Body: Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted – fragments, scraps, crumbs, crusts, tidbits, particles.
Garbage, waste, trash is what we usually call them.
But nothing will be lost, nothing wasted, Jesus says. Nothing.
At Mass, after all have received Communion, the priest, deacon, and/or Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion consume whatever remains – they don’t throw it out. Nothing is wasted.
I am the living bread that came down from Heaven. Whoever eats me will live because of me, Jesus says. We are fed by the very life of Jesus, and our lives as Christ are commissioned to feed the lives of others, to gather all the fragments, so that none will be lost.
Nothing will be wasted. No matter our need, nor how little we seem to have.
Not food, time, energy, water, nor money.
Not knowledge, emotions, nor actions.
Not joy, sadness, courage, fear, conviction, uncertainty, pleasure, nor pain.
Not people. Those we like, nor don’t like. Those who like us, and those who don’t.
Not even death will be wasted. The resurrected Christ in us gathers all the barley loaves of the poor, all the fragments and crumbs, whatever seems small and useless, and makes us one.
Nothing that we have, do, or are is wasted. Everything belongs. It all matters – this grandeur of mystery, this glorious gift that drenches us from above each and every moment. We may still see dimly, but the Kingdom of Heaven buds all around us – especially in all the leftovers.
God’s love is not wasted. Not one crumb, no matter how crusty. Taste and see.