When they had had their fill, Jesus said to his disciples,
"Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted."
We waste an awful lot. Food, time, energy, water, money. The list goes on. Ours is a disposable society.
Everything is important, but nothing matters much.
We waste words. Many speak. Few say anything. No wonder so few listen.
We waste opportunities. They fly by every second of our lives. Every once in a while, we grab one and make the most of it. Most pass by unnoticed, never to return.
We waste knowledge, emotions, actions.
We waste joy, sadness, courage, fear, conviction, uncertainty, pleasure, pain.
We waste people. If we're honest, we'll admit we often pay attention only to those whom we like, and who like us.
We waste death. Life is cheap.
We waste the grandeur of mystery, the glorious gifts that drench us from above each and every moment we spend on this earth. The Kingdom of Heaven is budding all around us, but we see dimly.
More than anything, we waste love. God's love. Love of ourselves. The love of others.
But all is not lost. Not even close.
In John 6, Jesus feeds 5,000 people. All they had were five barley loaves (the food of the poor) and two fish. It wasn't much. In fact, in wasn't anything at all. They needed food, but had too little. Jesus fed them all. They had their fill.
Often overlooked, though, is this passage: "When they had had their fill, Jesus said to his disciples, 'Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.' " It's an important sentence. Why do you think Jesus cared about all the leftovers? Why did the writer of the gospel feel it necessary to report this? As the end of John says, Jesus did many other things that were never recorded. This one was.
Much more than a meal is going on here. Jesus is providing more than food for the hungry. These acts--this mystery--signifies something else, something much greater.
For those who need, who have nothing (which is all of us in one respect or another), God provides. He gives us Himself. Jesus gathers us, feeds us, fills us with bread from heaven. The Body of Christ becomes what it receives. We are what we eat, as the saying goes.
Then, when we're finished, Jesus tells US: "Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted." Fragments, scraps, crumbs, crusts, tidbits, particles.
Garbage, waste, trash is what we call them.
But nothing will be wasted, Jesus says. Nothing.
After everyone has received Communion at Mass, the priest and/or Eucharistic ministers consume whatever remains. They don't throw it out. Nothing is wasted.
"I am the living bread that came down from heaven. ... The one who feeds on me will have life because of me," Jesus says (John 6:51, 57). We are fed by His life, and our lives as Christ are commissioned to feed the lives of others, to gather all the fragments.
Nothing will be wasted. No matter our need, nor how little we have.
Not food, time, energy, water, nor money.
Not knowledge, emotions, nor actions.
Not joy, sadness, courage, fear, conviction, uncertainty, pleasure, nor pain.
Not people. Those we like nor don't like. Those who like us and those who don't.
Not even death. The Resurrected Christ in us gathers all the barley loaves of the poor, all the fragments and crumbs, whatever seems small and useless, and makes us One.
Nothing we have, do, or are is wasted. Everything belongs. It all matters--this grandeur of mystery, this glorious gift that drenches us from above each and every moment. We may still see dimly, but the Kingdom of Heaven buds all around us. Especially in all the leftovers.
God's love is not wasted. Not one crumb, no matter how crusty. Taste and see.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.
From Christ's fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
Matthew 10:8; John 1:16