A group of ancient Greek philosophers, the Stoics, believed that the ability to visualize the worst possible thing that can happen helps a personto avoid or prevent it. Trouble is, the COVID-19 pandemic has developed in many of us the uncanny ability to imagine the worst-case scenario in every situation.
For instance, hardly anyone has questioned the daily updates of the Department of Health on the massive increase of COVID-19 infections. But when it announced that there were 38,705 recoveries in a single day, people regarded the DOH with a cynical sneer. When we hear good news, we shoot it down with our doom and gloom predictions.
Our penchant for the worst-case scenario is one reason very few beneficial activities happen around us. Obsessive, persistent, and uncontrollable worries about the “what ifs” have become our new normal. This adversely affects our emotional and physical health. We are unable to sleep, suffer from unexplained headaches, stomach problems, and muscle tension. Then we resort to overeating, alcohol, drugs, Netflix, and Korean TV series as a form of escape. We become habituated to pessimism. We justify this attitude by saying: “We are just being realistic.” In truth, we are just afraid.
Fear conjures up horrible and unwanted outcomes. In contrast, hope leads us to envision possibilities while faith helps us transform these into realities. The gospel reading todayillustrates this beautifully.
The gospel says that the crowds have been listening to Jesus for hours in a deserted place. It is almost evening and they are hungry and thirsty. The disciples start to imagine the worst-case scenario. A hungry crowd can quickly become a riotous mob if not managed properly. The disciples are also concerned for themselves. What if the people turned their anger and desperation against the disciples and Jesus? Afraid of what could happen next, they ask Jesus to quickly do something.
To be more precise, they do not ask Jesus, they command Him. They do not even address Him reverently with the usual “Lord.” They just say matter-of-factly: “This place is deserted, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves food.”
When Jesus tells them to feed the people themselves, the disciples must have complained: “We only have five loaves of bread and two fish, and you want us to feed five thousand people with that?” Jesus ignores their misgivings. He takes the little that they have, prays over these, and tells his disciples to distribute these to the hungry crowd. Wonder of wonders, after everyone has eaten, there was plenty of leftovers!
The story does not mean that God intervenes or performs a miracle every time a worst-case scenario is imminent. It teaches us this: any valuable resource is only as good as the hands on which it rests. An idea, a word, an act, a gift—when it comes from a person empowered by faith and fueled by hope—can transform the worst fears into glorious blessings. What could have been a tragic situation of starvation and violence was transformed by Jesus into a miracle of abundance through faith and prayer.
We attract what we expect. When we are tempted to think of the worst-case scenarios, remember that miracles happen every day. God can multiply a few loaves into an abundant feast. He can transformwater into wine. So, stop doing the reverse: don’t turn laughter into whine.