Deacon Stu Dobson’s Reflection
Friday, 2nd week of Easter, Memorial of St Catherine of Siena, April 29, 2022
Acts 5:34-42; Ps 27: 1, 4, 13-14; Jn 6:1-15
Can you imagine what that young boy thought as Andrew approached him? “I need your bread and fish to feed everyone.” If I was the boy responsible for holding onto my family’s food for the day, I would have been terrified. You want my food? You have got to be kidding, how are we going to eat, and how do you think this will feed everyone? Yet, the boy, seemingly docile, recognizes that this is God’s will and hands it over to Andrew.
St. Catherine of Siena, whose feast day we celebrate today, also at a very young age, recognized the power of prayer. Around the age of six, she would recite the Hail Mary prayer as she ascended the stairs, and when she reached the top, she would be rewarded with a vision of Christ. Both of these young children recognized the power of God in their lives and knew that nothing could prevent them from following God’s will.
While we don’t know what happened to the young boy, we know his offering fed well over 5,000 people; and led to one of Jesus’ miracles in front of a large number of people. It is one of the earliest signs we have that Jesus makes it known he will feed the people for all eternity. This miracle symbolizes how Jesus will eventually feed us through the Eucharist for all eternity. This boy knew, by the grace of God, that he had to do what was asked. St Catherine, also knew that she must follow God’s will. At the age of seven, she announced that she made a vow of virginity and consequently suffered bitter persecution for her refusing to marry. However, she too, knew what God had wanted, and followed it.
I often wonder, how many times do we see, or hear, God’s will, and then do not follow it? Yes, we need to discern His will because the enemy is always trying to trip us up. And the enemy makes us think that what they want is God’s will, even when it is not. But we need to learn to listen to and then follow God’s will. St. Catherine is a great model for us because she prayed incessantly and was perseverant in following what she believed God wanted. So, at the age of 16, she entered a Dominican Order to further her desire to be close to God. I am not suggesting that we all go give up our lives and enter a cloistered community, but there are ways we, too, can emulate what this young boy and St. Catherine did. The best way to do that is to make sure we have a solid prayer life. If we are constantly having a discussion with God, our relationship with Him becomes more intimate and we can begin to see clearly what is from God and what is not. Gamaliel makes this point clear in the first reading, “For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” St. Catherine knew this very well. So later in life when she was called on to fight for the Church, she stood up and took it on headfirst. In fact, through her prayers, intercession, and persuasive discussions, she helped restore the papacy back to Rome from Avignon, France.
We need that frequent alone time with our Lord or in prayer; the times we spend saying, “Hail Mary” as we walk the steps of life. The more time we spend with Him and the more time we spend in prayer, the more we will be able to discern God’s will for us, and how He wants to use us in our lives. As I was discussing this with a friend the other day, he asked, “So what does that mean? How are we to do that?” “While it’s not easy, I said, we must first start with prayer. Then let God take over. Just like the young boy and St. Catherine did. If we let God be in charge, the Holy Spirit will provide us with what we need. Our discernment will be sharp and accurate.” As Gamaliel says, “If it’s not from God, it will perish.” All we need to do is be ready and have the faith of that young boy and of St. Catherine. So when God asks us, we will know it is from Him and we can say yes, here are my five barley loaves and two fish, do with them, and me, as you will.