As I prepare for Sunday's reflection on the Gospel, 2009 July 26, I have been working with the following devotional:
Lessons of Grace
“Make the men sit down.” “Gather up the fragments.”—S. John vi. 10, 12.
Picture: the scene.
Resolution: thanksgiving for mercies.
- —“Make the men sit down.”
- Consider the orderliness of grace. In human bounty, when unstinted, there is often to be found a certain recklessness, which manifests the self-indulgence, of liberality. The divine bounty is indeed unstinted, but has not the wastefulness of self-pleasing. It is regulated and proportioned in its distribution.
- Consider the discipline of grace. The men must sit down in order, and wait until the distribution was duly carried out; then all were fed. A spirit of impatience will at times rebel against the discipline of orderliness, and the conditions of grace, misinterpreting the wisdom of the divine bounty by the undisciplined eagerness of their own minds. They would hasten where God acts slowly, would reject the measured life of grace, week by week, year by year. We should pray, “Feed me with food convenient for me.”
- The reception of grace. In quietness and obedience, prompted by confidence in the great teacher, they waited until the meal was given. Such is the law of the reception of grace. As the years of grace pass, we are more ready than formerly to sit down and receive. Lord! I have nothing, and I am hungry: feed me, that the word which thou hast spoken to my heart may be nourished.
- —The meal.
- He made the meal like the Holy Communion, breaking and blessing the bread as he was about to do on the last night; and then he fed them by the hands of his disciples. Now he makes the Holy Communion like a meal. It is part of the orderliness and seemliness of grace. As of old he prepared the faithful for the gift of the Blessed Sacrament by the multiplication of natural food, so he prepares us now by these conditions to realize some of the laws of grace.
- The law of spiritual digestion, which requires a fit condition in the recipient, and then the spiritual food is assimilated silently and nourishes the life in health. And as the natural food requires exercise for its proper digestion, so the spiritual sustenance must be exercised by prayer which is the fruit of communion, and by daily life among the brethren who partake of the common meal.
- In the natural life appetite is a sign of health, and is the result of due exercise after healthy food. In the spiritual life also digestion through exercise renews the spiritual desire for food. And as in the disciplined daily life one is ready for each meal, while not conscious of extravagant hunger unless the meal be delayed, so too the spiritual life in normal condition is ready for each heavenly meal, and learns by grace the times of reception.
- —“Gather up the fragments.”
- The position of this Gospel gives to these words a particular application in the review of a year of grace. Grace is one; it is only broken up for individual needs, and for distribution. So the years too are only fragments of eternity broken up for human requirements and distributed to us day by day for the fulfilment of their purposes in the exercise of grace.
- We cannot gather up what has been lost by misuse; we can gather up the “over and above,” the remaining portions of the life of grace which he has blessed and broken for us. Do this, in the spirit of grace, making such a profitable gathering up as may fit us for a new year more of grace, and less of reliance upon natural strength and resolution.
- And for this, reflect upon the divine estimate of grace. He could multiply five loaves for five thousand, and yet was careful that nothing should be lost. Let there be a reverent appreciation of the value of grace, and not a presumption based on its bounty. Let there be, however, a strong confidence in his supply, who supplieth liberally, but will not squander.
This if from In the Face of Jesus Christ, 1925, by David Jenks (1866-1935).