Editor's Note: In this story with a purpose, St. Patrick parishioner Ronnie Muro reflects on one of the many lessons taught to him by his mother.
The Loaves and the Fishes by Ronnie Muro
As I sat in church tonight, I realized tomorrow would be my mother's birthday. It had been many years since she passed away and I had thought about her a lot this week, as the anniversary of her death and her birthday were only days apart. While I waited on mass to start, I reflected on my mother's life and decided to just think about the good times and maybe some of the lessons that she had taught me.
My mother was a person of great love and boundless generosity. Mostly it showed in her kitchen. Everybody loved Mama's cooking and everybody was welcome. We had many family meals together, but we also had many, many meals with neighbors, cousins, friends, aunts, uncles and anyone we wanted to invite. I thought back to one such occasion many years ago.
It happened during the time my mother was fighting cancer. She had already undergone a serious operation and her prognosis was not great. Still, she fought on and bravely fixed Sunday dinner every week, just like she always had. The family was all invited and we looked forward to Sunday dinner at Mama's perhaps hoping that retaining this bit of normalcy would shield us from the truth we all desperately avoided confronting. Nonetheless, on this particular Sunday, my brother Louis had brought two of his in-laws to eat dinner with us. Mama seemed a little more tired than usual and my older brother, Alex, and I wondered if it was a good idea having so many to feed that day.
We called Louis aside and told him that maybe it wasn't such a good idea to bring extra people when Mama was not feeling well. His reaction was not surprising as he immediately got upset. He mumbled something about taking care of ‘my people' himself and stormed off. It had not gone well, but we felt we had to say something for Mama's sake.
Moments later, Mama came flying out the door and set us straight. Who did we think we were deciding who could come to eat and who couldn't? She let us know in no uncertain terms that as long as she was around EVERYONE was welcome to eat. Nobody ever had to worry about an invitation, especially family members. Well, we were certainly ashamed and I learned something about my mother that day. She was a woman with an open heart and surely an open kitchen. She fed everyone with food from her kitchen and love from her heart. There were always plenty of both as long as she was around.
As Mass began, I turned my attention to the Bible readings. Thoughts of Mama drifted to the back of my mind. Then the Gospel reading began. It was a familiar story - the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Jesus took a few loaves of bread and couple of fish and fed the masses. Suddenly, I felt a chill over my body. The story had a familiar ring to it.
Mama, just like Jesus, never turned anyone away. Jesus performed a miracle by multiplying the bread and fish. Mama didn't perform miracles, but she would fix up a little more pasta or make the salad a little bigger so everyone would have enough. Many times I saw her take smaller portions so her selfish children could eat their fill. I had such a good feeling as the Gospel story was read. I felt close to Mama and close to Jesus as well. No doubt the two of them were together watching from above.
As I continued to reflect on the Gospel, I had a new insight into that familiar story. Perhaps what Jesus was trying to teach us that day was that we should always be willing to feed others. I don't necessarily mean with food, but with love. Mama opened her kitchen and dished up plates of fried chicken and pasta. But what she really was doing was opening up her heart and serving up love, kindness, generosity and encouragement. Jesus is calling upon all of us to always be generous, kind and loving. While food may run out, do we ever run out of nice things to say? Can we ever do too many kind things for one another? Certainly there are plenty of people in need. They, for sure, will never run out.
Just like the loaves and fishes, our acts of kindness will multiply. The more kind things we do for each other, the more there are to be done. If we continuously give of ourselves with acts of love, there will always be more to do, and we will be more willing to give. It is the example shown to us by the love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The basket of generosity will never be emptied. The plate of kindness never runs out. It is up to us to open our hearts, our homes and our lives to those around us and always be willing to pull up another chair, extend a helping hand or just say a kind word. Then the miracle begins.