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Filipino community pantries bring to life Jesus' miracle

Ballooning numbers of food offerings are like a modern-day feeding of the 5,000

Filipino community pantries bring to life Jesus' miracle

People look to see what’s on offer at a community pantry in Quezon City in Manila. (Photo supplied)

The feeding of the 5,000, also known as the miracle of the five loaves and two fish, is one of Jesus’ most mind-boggling miracles. How did he do it?

Gospel accounts said Jesus’ disciples wanted the multitude to go away so that they could go to a village and buy themselves some food. But Jesus refused and told his disciples that they themselves will give the crowd something to eat.

“They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat,” Jesus said according to Matthew (14:16). Imagine the horror on the disciples’ faces.

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I once spoke to a Jesuit priest about this miracle and I was fascinated by what he said.

“Where is the miracle in the story? Did Jesus really multiply the bread and fish or did the people share what they had?” he said.

“Perhaps it is not impossible to think that the miracle happened in people’s hearts. God touched their hearts to share what they had and in the process everyone was fed.”

Today community pantries have become a movement. They are sprouting like mushrooms from Luzon to Mindanao

I remembered this conversation when I learned about the ballooning number of community pantries across the Philippines to help the poor during the Covid-19 pandemic.

One person started them all along Maginhawa Street in Quezon City in Manila. Ana Non gathered several tables and placed them on the sidewalk. She arranged some eggs, vegetables and fruits and placed a cardboard sign that read: “Share what you can. Get what you need for the day.”

CaloocanBishop Pablo Virgilio David described Non’s cardboard as the “right” cardboard instead of the cardboard that often covers the faces of victims of extrajudicial killings.

Today community pantries have become a movement. They are sprouting like mushrooms from Luzon to Mindanao. People all over the country have set them up along streets in their communities.

Non has inspired individuals and groups that believe that generosity for the hungry is more infectious than the coronavirus. People started to give what they could, from fresh vegetables and eggs to instant noodles.

There is something that inspired the organizers of these pantries. Contrary to what the authorities said — that they were a communist front — there is divine work in them.

Like the multitude, our hearts have been touched by divine inspiration to share what we have with our fellow Filipinos, who are hungry.

It is puzzling how some can equate goodness with communism. Police have been looking to see if there are links between community pantry organizers and the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Perhaps the first thing the police need to discover is the organizers’ links to the Catholic Church and their faith in Christ rather than with a communist organization.

Bishop David himself revealed three officers came and asked volunteers in his diocese for the identity of the organizer of a local community pantry. They wanted specific names. He said the volunteers gave his name.

Community pantries are divine work but they all began with a human source

The feeding of the 5,000 may be a very familiar story to all Catholics. But there is a particular detail St. John noted that the other gospels did not. He identified where the five loaves and two fish came from.

John’s narrative mentioned a boy who provided them. “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, asked Jesus. (John 6:9)

The calling for Catholics today is to be this little unnamed boy who did not have much but was willing to share what he had so that God’s miracle could work through him.

Community pantries are divine work but they all began with a human source. We are called to be this human source like the nameless boy whose loaves and fish Jesus consecrated to feed thousands.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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