Gospel – John 6: 1 – 15
The Gospel of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish is a beautiful story, and what makes it even more meaningful is that it leads into, what is known as, the Bread of Life Discourse. It is after the multiplication of the loaves that Jesus teaches, “I am the Bread of Life,” (John 6:35) and “the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (John 6:51) In looking at this Gospel keep these teachings in mind. The bread that is multiplied and becomes more than enough for the crowd prefigures the sacrifice of Jesus. The bread and wine on the altar become the Body and Blood of Jesus for all ages.
This passage begins with us being told that a large crowd was following Jesus because of the signs he was performing. This was a spontaneous response of the people who experienced the presence of Jesus and saw him healing the sick. These were a people who were hungering for the Good News and when they experienced Jesus they knew he was not only the bearer of Good News but more than that, He was the Good News; both the messenger and the message. Jesus desire was to satisfy their hunger, both the spiritual and physical. Jesus cares about our total being, both our mortal lives here and our immortal lives in the afterworld.
The people did not bring their lunches and Jesus saw that they were hungry. I’m not a believer in the soggy fish sandwich theory that explains this miracle as a miracle of sharing the food that they had brought with them. This is a multiplication of food. We’re told that all they had were five loaves of bread and a couple of fish, and as Simon comments, “what good are these for so many?” What seemed totally inadequate for the Apostles was more than enough for Jesus. He took the loaves and fish, gave thanks and distributed them, and there was more than enough. They ended up with twelve baskets of fragments from the five loaves.
The first lesson for us is that with God all things are possible. When we allow our minds to limit the infinite goodness and almighty works of God we do an injustice to both God and ourselves. Keep our minds open so as to allow the magnificent works of God to be seen in us and around us. When we think we don’t have enough to make a difference, think again. Whether it be a particular ability or gift, time or treasure, if we take what little we have and offer it to the Lord it is amazing how much can be done. The Lord draws out of us gifts and talents we never thought we had. The Apostles and Disciples did this and went from being fishermen and tradesmen to evangelists and missionaries who traveled the known world.
The second lesson is that just as Jesus satisfied the human hunger of the crowd he is one who we can call upon to satisfy our various hungers in life. Even greater than this he satisfies our spiritual hunger, for he is the Bread of Life. In the Beatitudes Jesus taught us, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6) We can come to the Lord with all the hungers we experience and he will satisfy us, we can come to the Lord with all we have, even when it seems inadequate and insufficient for our needs, and he will take this offering, bless it, and we will find that not only does he satisfy us, he gives us much more than enough.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Jacopo dal Ponte Bassano (Italian, b. ca. 1510–1592)
Title: The Miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes.