Waste Not, Want Not

Friday of Week 2 in Eastertide

Acts. 5:34-42 & Jn. 6:1-15

Another conflict between the apostles and the Sanhedrin is recorded in today's first reading. This time they have an unexpected defender in the influential Pharisee Gamaliel who speaks wisely when he says if this Christianity is not from God it will disappear as other religious movements have done. But if it is from God then leave them for we are sure to be fighting a losing cause against none other than God.

The Sanhedrin had a strange way of accepting Gamaliel’s advice: the apostles were scourged and forbidden to preach about Jesus before being let go. Needless to say the apostles did not obey. It was an honour for them to suffer for the name of Jesus!

That meal on the hillside above the Sea of Galilee must have been a very unusual picnic. The story is a familiar one, the only miracle reported by all four evangelists, but it raises some interesting questions. Was the fish ready cooked? How was it kept fresh in that Middle Eastern heat? What happened to the twelve hampers of scraps? Presumably no-one wanted to eat the leftovers so were they given to the street dogs or fed to the hens? Were they left for the wild birds, or thrown to the fish in the sea? Whatever was actually done with them does not matter because the point is that they were not wasted: Jesus was emphatic about that which is why He instructed the disciples to collect what was not eaten.

Wasting food is an issue for everyone. Some people cook more than is necessary and the remainder is thrown away. There are others whose eyes are bigger than their stomachs – they pile the food on their plates and then cannot finish it. With care food waste can be avoided but what should we do if there are leftovers? Some can be re-hashed for another meal, perhaps in a soup for lunch. Any remaining vegetable scraps can be put on the compost heap, and much of the remainder given to the birds.

We who are well-fed tend to take our daily food for granted. The first thing Jesus did with the loaves and fish was to give thanks to His Father: if we make it a habit to say grace before meals we will never forget to be grateful for the food God provides for us.

Distributing the food amongst the crowd, Jesus made sure that each person had enough. There is a lesson here for those of us who live in the more affluent parts of the world. We have a duty to share what we have with our brothers and sisters in poorer countries, some of whom lack even the bare necessities of life. We can all do something to support overseas aid agencies.

Holy Spirit, help us to learn to be grateful for whatever God gives us, to use it wisely and to share it generously.