Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee anda huge crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with the disciples. This happened shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that the large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, "Where can we buy some food for them to eat?" Jesus knew very well what he was going to do, but asked this to test Philip's response. Philip answered him, "Not even with two hundred days' wages could we buy loaves enough for each of them to have even a little.'"
One of the other disciples, Simon Peter's brother, Andrew, said, "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?" Jesus said, "Have the people recline." There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand families sat down. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to the disciples, "Gather up the fragments which are left over, so that nothing will be wasted." So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.
The people, seeing this sign that Jesus had performed, said, "Surely this is the Prophet, who was to come into the world." Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.
Today's Gospel tells another story of God working through a faithful prophet to work abundance, despite opposition, with meager resources from an unlikely source -- but, the Gospel account of Jesus' action is so much more important on many levels.... The story of the miraculous feeding of the multitude was extremely important in the early Church. It is recounted six times in the gospels and it is the only miracle recounted in every gospel! The scenario is uncomplicated. The compassion of Jesus attracts a large crowd and soon they find themselves in a deserted place where no food is available.
The disciples, who frequently seem disconcerted by Jesus' apparent lack of foresight, point out that there was a real problem since no food was readily available for this large crowd. Jesus seems quite unconcerned and tells the disciples to provide them with food. When they protest that it will never be enough, Jesus simply asks that they give him the loaves, blesses and breaks them, and then gives them to the disciples for distribution. All eat and are filled with the twelve baskets of left-over fragments!
Again we see the contrast between the total inability of the disciples alone to deal with a desperate situation and the ease with which Jesus provides a solution. It is about the inability of humans, in any age, to deal with serious problems without divine help. As in the first reading, this Gospel teaches us that, even with sparse resources, the work of Christ is accomplished, when we cooperate with him, and when we work explicitly in God's name. This reading can be summarized in this theme: A true servant of God has implicit confidence in the divine generous, powerful character...Though they encounter opposition, they refuse to be deterred.....Though other ministers ridicule them, they act according to God’s Word and Ways...God does not fail them, but honors their trust....The more one receives from God, the more they should share with others....The servant of God who is faithful in giving to others will themselves receive even more.
If we examine, though, what happened before and after today's selection of John's gospel, we see an even deeper message than any of these listed above. We know from previous verses of this gospel that it is the last Passover before Jesus' death....he knows he has little time to show how he is the manna sent from heaven to feed the people; and we know from just a few verses immediately after this passage that Jesus directly tells the people that he is the Bread of Life! While the people's hearts were set on the earthly, on the physical benefits they could receive if Jesus would be their king, he tries to explain to them who and what He really is. He is the great I AM, the very revelation of God becoming one of us to save us all.
Bread, is a basic staple of life; it is one of the basic means by which our life is supported here on earth. Without bread we die. So it is in the spiritual realm. Jesus is necessary food for our souls. Jesus is the absolute staple of spiritual life... the soul's basic and only need...the living Bread, able to impart spiritual life as well as to sustain it, able to give it as well as to keep it, able to bestow it as well as to nourish it and make it grow. Just as other foods are more tantalizing than bread, other things will tantalize our spiritual tastes (status, control, fame, wealth), but they only leave us empty in the end. Other saviors may promise us satisfaction, but only Christ fills our soul with grace that saves from sin and death, with grace that fills us with peace and life with God and the hope of eternal life.
As we gather today at the Lord's table, we recognize all the hungers we have that need to be fed-- our physical needs and wants yes, but more importantly, our personal weaknesses and failures; our need to grow in faith and obedience; our ignorance and lack of spiritual discernment, our needs of guidance and wisdom, courage, honesty and character......As we gather today at the Lord's table, we recognize too, that we already have been given food to share ... our gifts, talents, and God-given ministries, not forgetting Jesus himself, his teachings, his love, his forgiveness, his constant presence....At every Eucharistic gathering, our souls are nourished and our 'baskets' are restocked....as we leave the holy gathering, we carry away with us, the resources that we will need for the week ahead. We, too, can perform wonders in our own time and place, by imitating the four "Eucharistic verbs” of Jesus: a) take humbly and generously what God gives us, b) bless it by offering it to others in God’s love, c) break away from our own needs and interests for the sake of others, d) give with joy-filled gratitude to God who has blessed us with so much.
I call all of us this week to REFLECT on these questions:
What meaning should we seek in that Jesus worked this incredible, important miracle through the gift offered by a child (one of the 'least' in Jewish society)?
What meaning should we seek in that Jesus didn't ask qualifications of anyone whom he fed?
When did God's generosity, abundance, and graciousness "feed" me when I felt weary, alone, empty or dissatisfied?"
What word or resolve will I carry away with me in my basket today with which to feed others?
Valentine Faith Community
Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2670 Chandler Avenue
Suite 7 & 8
Las Vegas, NV 89120
702-523-8963 Rev Sue Provost, Pastor
"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)