Saturday morning television seems to be dominated by cookery programmes. Always interesting viewing when lunch is a few hours away and the first smells drift up from the kitchen. The combination of sight and smell has an uncanny ability to make me think about cooking. I love Italian food, especially pasta which is why I enjoy travelling to Rome and last week I ventured into Southern Italy for the first time.
At the end of six days I’m probably ready for another sponsored slim. Although another idea which was buzzing about via emails this week put an end to that particular notion. One of my cousins passed on a message that the television programme ‘Come dine With Me’ would be in Derry in September and they were looking for contestants. I thought about the possibility for all of two seconds and then I got a grip of reality. I was going to inform Fr Roland but I think he’s more interested in the X Factor!
Four months ago I bought a pasta cook book and you’ll probably think I’ve never opened it in all that time. Not quite true, I did look at the pictures and even brought it home to my mother. My two brothers can cook, my sister can microwave a Chinese takeaway, and alas I’m still trying to find my kitchen skills. What is frustrating is to see how the chefs and presenters on TV make it look so easy. They have a number of advantages most importantly as well has having a high level of skill they have a natural disposition and love for what they are doing, namely cooking.
I can relate to this experience because I have a natural disposition and love for eating. Like many things in life to develop our talents and our abilities can take time and effort. What is not at issue is the nature of the gifts we have been given, the real question concerns what we do with our gifts and talents.
There are many abilities which we are born with, we can’t claim too much credit for what we possessed from birth, or inherited through our families. Yet developing these God given gifts is a different matter. Many people have obvious talents and abilities, many of us possess more hidden and everyday qualities without which the world around us would be worse off.
In the feeding of the five thousand Jesus takes the everyday reality of bread and fish and transforms limited resources into a meal for a multitude. Like the disciples we can protest and make excuses. There is the real danger of falling into the temptation of giving up, allowing despair and powerlessness in the face of huge obstacles to trample our hope.
Sometimes we have to dare to dream the dream and allow our horizons to be opened up. When we feel like giving up too easily in the face of trouble, when our crosses seem too large, when we find ourselves living in a rut then we have to turn to Jesus. He can take the daily bread and fish of our daily lives and transform our actions and words so that they provide nourishment for those we share our lives with.
Being the person God wants us to be is the greatest response to the gifts and the love God has shared with us. When we overcome our fears, when we can recognise and move beyond our limitations then we can begin to recognise the unique contribution we can make the world around us. This requires a generous heart, being willing to share of our time, energy, wisdom and experiences. It means responding to the needs of others rather than simply hiding away in the corner or behind our closed doors.
God will only be able to feed the hungry if we’re willing to be his presence in the world. In the midst of all the crisis we’re confronted with are we aware of our responsibility to take care of our brothers and sisters?
People often complain, questioning why God allows certain events and tragedies to happen. These mysteries are different to reconcile, we struggle for answers. Yet there is one simple truth - we can’t deny God has charged us with the mission to make his love known in the world, both near and far. Only through his grace will we be granted the wisdom and courage to bear witness to God’s Kingdom. As long as we fail to take up the challenge then people we continue to question the goodness of God. People hunger and thirst for so many things, food, water, love, compassion, forgiveness, understanding, human companionship and warmth, may we use our gifts to help one another in our journey towards God.