When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. John 6: 5-6
My father would often say, ” If you fail to plan well then plan to fail.” certainly sage advice. I don’t go through life with detailed plans for every mundane task but I do have an idea of the steps involved to accomplish the things I need to and I must admit that I fly by the seat of my pants a fair bit as well. Sometimes we can “plan” the joy right out of something. Yesterday we contemplated what it would be like if God rationed his Spirit, His grace. We also thought about the times when we ration out our response to God, holding back our love out of fear. We all are being tested because of the pandemic but because of God’s permissive will good and evil will befall us to test us so we can grow in holiness, to respond with faith.
God always knows what He is going to do. He always has a perfect plan for our lives. Always. In the passage above, we read a snippet from the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish. Jesus knew He was going to multiply the few loaves and fish they had and feed over five thousand people. But before He did this, He wanted to test Philip, and so He did. Why does Jesus test Philip and why does He test us at times?
It’s not that Jesus is curious about what Philip will say. And it’s not that He is just playing games with Philip. Rather, He is seizing this opportunity to let Philip manifest His faith. So, in fact, this “testing” of Philip was a gift to him because it gave Philip the opportunity to pass the test. Philip was quick to tell Jesus what they lacked. This is a Faith killer. When we focus on what we are lacking we fail to recognize that God will provide for us.
The test was to let Philip act on faith rather than just on human logic alone. Sure, it’s good to be logical. But very often the wisdom of God supersedes human logic. In other words, it brings logic to a whole new level. It brings it to a level where faith in God is brought into the equation. Faith must be coupled with human endeavor; we must do the possible and have faith that God can and will do the impossible.
So, Philip, at that moment, was being called to offer a solution given the fact that the Son of God was there with them. And he fails the test. He points out that two hundred days’ wages would not be enough to feed the crowd. But Andrew somewhat comes to the rescue. Andrew states that there is a boy who has a few loaves and some fish. Unfortunately, he adds, “but what good are these for so many?” Saints never dwell on what they don’t have. Saints never play the victim they give everything away.
This little spark of faith in Andrew, however, is enough faith for Jesus to have the crowds recline and to perform the miracle of the multiplication of the food. It seems that Andrew at least had a small insight into the fact that these few loaves and fish were important to mention. Jesus takes this from Andrew and takes care of the rest.
The saint we celebrate today St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, was one such saint that did not focus on what he lacked but only on what he should give away. St. Fidelis started out life as Mark Roy in the town of Sigmaringen in Northern Germany in the 16th century. He earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1603 and degrees in civil and canon law in 1611, yet over time he became disillusioned with his career in the law. He had always been an exceptionally ardent Catholic, so he entered the Capuchin Order and was ordained a priest in his thirties. He took the religious name of “faithful”—in Latin, “Fidelis.” Fidelis was intelligent, disciplined, ascetic, and committed. His abundant human and spiritual gifts were amplified and sharpened when put in the service of the King of Kings, and he rose to positions of leadership within the Capuchin Order.
Father Fidelis was appointed by the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith in Rome to preach, teach, and write in present-day Switzerland, with the goal of exhorting the people to return to the embrace of the Mother Church which had given them birth. Father Fidelis desired martyrdom, and it came for him soon enough. In Switzerland, his zeal and example brought some prominent Calvinists back to the true Faith. This made him an official enemy of the Calvinists who controlled much of the territory. When traveling between two towns where he was preaching and saying Mass, Fidelis was confronted along the road by Calvinist soldiers led by a minister. Fidelis had recently caused an uproar in a nearby town and had barely escaped with his life. The soldiers knew exactly who he was. They demanded that he abandon his Faith. Fidelis answered, “I was sent to convince you to return to the Church, not to embrace your heresy.
His skull was then cracked open with the butt of a sword, his body punctured with stabs, and his left leg hacked off in retribution for the numerous journeys he had made into Protestant territory. Saint Fidelis died at the age of forty-five, ten years after entering religious life. The first fruits of his martyrdom were the conversion of the Protestant minister who witnessed his gruesome death. St. Fidelis was certainly an ardent preacher but he responded to God’s tests with great love and faith he never held anything back He never focused on what he didn’t have. He not only angered the local officials with his preaching but with his devotion to all the poor and the suffering. taking care of the widows and orphans.
St. John Paul II said of St. Fidelis in a homily about the martyrs of the Counter-Reformation, ” A martyr is a person who, like Christ bears witness to the truth, Still more, he or she is a person who bears witness to Christ who is himself the fullness of truth”.
Reflect, today, upon the precious gift of even a little faith. So often we find ourselves in difficult situations where we don’t know what to do. We should strive to have at least a little faith so that Jesus has something to work with. No, we may not have the full picture of what He wants to do, but we should at least have a small inkling of the direction God is leading. If we can at least manifest this little faith, then we too will pass the test.
May God bless you.
Rev. Fr. Douglas A. Ondeck