Hunger in the World
As we are aware, the Sunday Readings have a three-year cycle. The synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke are read in each cycle, respectively. During the second cycle, (Year B), the Gospel of Mark is read in Ordinary Time. However, in the next five Sundays, the Gospel of Mark is paused, and the Gospel Readings will be taken from ‘Jesus our bread of life’ series from the sixth chapter of St John’s Gospel. St Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the three synoptic Gospels, hence, the insertion of the Readings from the Gospel of John help to elongate the Gospel of Mark.
There are fine threads which link the first Reading, (2 Kgs 4:42-44), to the Gospel, (Jn 6:1-15). The links are the multiplication of loaves and the feeding of the crowd. In the first Reading, Prophet Elisha fed one hundred men with twenty barley loaves and fresh grains which were the first fruits someone had offered to him in accordance with the law of the Lord, (Deut 26:2-3). 2 Kings 4:38 made us understand that it was a time of “great scarcity of food in the region.” Elisha could have kept the food for himself and his family, but rather, he chose to use it to alleviate hunger among the masses. When Elisha ordered his servant to share the loaves among the crowd, the servant quizzed, “’How can I serve this to a hundred men?’” Similarly, in the Gospel, when Jesus was thinking aloud about feeding the crowd, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “’There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?’”
Jesus instructed his disciples to ask the crowd to sit down. In Jesus’ time, the Greek culture was in vogue, therefore, people sat in reclining fashion as they ate. The Greek word used by the disciples of Jesus to instruct the people to sit down was the word which implied that they should sit reclined. Thus, as the people sat down, they expected to have a meal. Jesus took the five barley loaves and two fishes and gave thanks to God, and he asked his disciples to distribute the food among the crowd, and all had their fill and there was much left over. This shows the generosity of God. When the Lord provides, we will always have more than we need.
Today in the world, according to Food Aid Foundation, “some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That’s about one in nine people on earth”; whereas one-third of world annual food production is wasted. Food Aid Foundation also provided the following information on hunger in the world:
The vast majority of the world’s hungry people live in developing countries, where 12.9 percent of the population is undernourished; Asia is the continent with the most hungry people – two thirds of the total. The percentage in southern Asia has fallen in recent years but in western Asia it has increased slightly; Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence, (percentage of population), of hunger. One person in four there is undernourished; Poor nutrition causes nearly half, (45%), of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year; One out of six children – roughly 100 million – in developing countries is underweight. One in four of the world’s children are stunted. In developing countries, the proportion can rise to one in three; If women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungers in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million. Sixty-six million primary school-aged children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone. World Food Program calculates that US$3.2 billion is needed per year to reach all 66 million hungry school-aged children, (www.wfp.org/hunger/stats).
Just as Elisha was willing to share his food with the hungry in the first Reading, the little boy was also willing to share his food with the crowd in the Gospel which enabled Jesus to perform the miracle of the loaves and fish. Today there may be a talent or a good that you have which the Lord might need to perform a miracle in our community if you are willing to offer it.
May I use this opportunity to acknowledge and thank you for your generosities toward the different collections taken up in the Church which are aimed at alleviating poverty in one way or another. I am aware that some of you support other charities. May the Lord Bless us as we keep being mindful of the needs of the poor in our society. Amen!
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp