Biblical text: Matthew 14:13-21
Feeding and hydration are basic needs of all living things. The difference between other living things and human beings is that, as beings created to live in community, these biological needs have a social character. In many cultures, sharing food and drink are signs of familiarity, love, respect, and the joy of being together. In my country we say: where two eat, ten eat. In fact, the early church, according to the texts of the New Testament, very often, if not always, gathered to celebrate the bond that united them in Christ, and they did so around the table, eating and drinking in communion.
One of the fundamental aspects regarding the mission of our church in Cuba today has to do with the need to serve those in need, even in the midst of our limitations, especially economic ones. We are always grateful that many of our sister churches and project agencies come in solidarity to supply these material needs. The challenge for us is to set limits to this diakonia so as not to turn it into a form of assistance that can easily become a charity devoid of meaning. To understand that satisfying the basic needs of every human being is not enough to build the foundations of the Kingdom of God is not an easy thing. If only we Cubans knew it!
A text like the one that corresponds to this ninth Sunday after Pentecost does not help to reflect on the subject and also empowers our capacity to understand where the true meaning of our diakonia lies. The narrative that Matthew's Gospel offers us about the so-called miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes confirms to us that the ministry of Jesus, as a prelude to the Kingdom of God, was full of signs that affirmed the values that give meaning to God's proposal for the human being in Christ Jesus. For it is not only to satisfy those basic needs but to create a community spirit that communes with God's intention that every human being has the right to have those needs satisfied. The Kingdom project is to build a community, a human family in harmony with all Creation. Solidarity and justice are essential for the full life proposed by the Kingdom and announced by Jesus.
The easy solution, which is the one we as humans always look for, was the one the disciples brought to Jesus: "The place is deserted and the hour is late; send the crowds away so that they may go to the villages and buy food for themselves" (Matthew 14:15). Jesus' response is firm: "...give them something to eat" (14:16). The call as followers of Jesus is to be agents of solidarity and promoters of alternatives in which the solution is not to "buy" but to "give." Offering what little we are or what little we have can be like that mustard seed in the parable, which is the smallest of all, but when it grows and multiplies it can be a nesting place for the birds of the air. Five loaves and two fish become then that seed, that incentive so that even in the midst of needs and limitations, God's people can feel their needs, all of them, satisfied. The great problem of the world today, this story reminds us, is not the lack of resources to feed human beings, but the lack of solidarity, the lack of alternatives to the commercialization of the basic needs of human beings, the foolishness of not understanding that the table of the Kingdom is for everyone, not just for a few.
May God help us to be a community of men and women, a church with open doors and a table served in the name of Jesus. As a song we sing a lot here says: "Bless our bread, Lord, and give bread to those who are hungry and hunger for justice to those who have bread."
—Pastor Dora Arce Valentin
Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba