One of the few TV programs I make sure to follow is “Heroes.” As its viewers know, it’s about a strange bunch of reluctant superheroes: young and ordinary people who accidentally discover their extraordinary abilities.
Among them is Hiro Nakamura, a Japanese office worker who has a boring routinary 9-to-5 job. Like the other heroes, he learns about his special gifts by trial and error. He discovers that he can stop and manipulate time, travel through time, and even teleport—i.e., to travel from one place to another. All he has to do is to concentrate really hard! In one of his more successful attempts, he surprises himself when he manages to teleport himself all the way from a subway in Tokyo across the globe to Times Square, New York!
The interesting thing about Hiro is his belief that he needs something special to help him control his power. It’s a sword–but not just any ordinary sword, but a very special and specific sword, the sword belonging to the ancient Japanese warrior Takezo Kensei. He goes to the Museum of Natural History looking for this sword, and he finds it in a glass case on the back of the ancient warrior. Hiro decides to steal it, not knowing that it’s only a wooden replica of the real sword.
Hiro eventually finds the real sword of Takezo Kensei. Not only does it help him control his powers, but also it changes him and his character. The sword in itself has no magic, but for Hiro, it has become a powerful symbol of who he is and what his mission will be.
Now, enough of Hiro. Let’s talk about another swordsman, who is also a saint and whose feast day we celebrated on the 31st of July. I am, of course, referring to St. Ignaitus of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus. This is his statue found on the campus of Ateneo de Manila University. If you look at it closely, you will see that Ignatius is wearing a soldier’s uniform. Also you will notice that in his hands he is holding a sword.
Actually, what’s happening here is that Ignatius is on a vigil before our Lady of Montserrat in Spain. During that vigil he offered his sword because he had decided to change his ways and to serve God in his life. Just like Hiro Nakamura, for Ignatius the soldier, his sword symbolized everything that he was and everything that his life meant. The only difference is that in his case, he wasn’t looking for something to symbolize him as Hiro was doing. Instead he was giving it up. In surrendering his sword, he was offering his past self and his past life to God because he wanted God to make him an instrument to make the world a better place.
That seems to be the message of our gospel reading today. Our Lord saw the crowd around him, and he was moved with pity for them. When he saw that they were hungry, he asked the disciples to feed the people, but his disciples said: “All we have are five loaves and two fish.” The Lord asked for the five loaves and the two fish, and the disciples gave them up, offering all that they had to the Lord. What did the Lord do? He broke the loaves, and distributed them along with the two fish to the crowds. Miraculously, the five loaves and the two fish were multiplied—and not only were all the people fed, but they also had so much leftover!
Notice that at first the disciples didn’t think that their five loaves and two fish were enough to feed. What they learned from this miracle of our Lord is that for as long as we surrender whatever we have to God, it will not only be enough to make a difference. It will even be more than enough!
So here’s a Quick Question for you today: “Do you believe that you, given your talents and your gifts, can make a difference in the world?” If your answer is a hesitant “No,” maybe the Lord is inviting you precisely to learn to believe more in yourself and in the gifts and talents that he has given you. If your answer is a confident “Yes,” maybe the Lord is reminding you that you need his help to make such a difference, and he is challenging you to offer whatever you have and whoever you are to him.
Call it what you will–sword, loaves and fish–but whichever your symbol is for your self and for your life, surrender it all to the Lord. But like Hiro Nakamura, we must first claim this–i.e., go out of our way to discover who we are and develop what we can do. But when the time comes, like St. Ignatius and the disciples in the gospel, we must be ready to give up whatever we have—even if we don’t think it is worth much—to share who we are with others—because when we think about it, it is the Lord who will make sure that we make a difference.
Note: Here’s a music video showing highlights in the story of Hiro Nakamura. The music video is made by heroeseclipse (YouTube) to the Bon Jovi song, “It’s My Life.”