Acts 5:34-42; Ps 27:1,4,13,14; Jn 6:1-15
The deepest desire of the human heart is to dwell with the Lord in his own house. The house of the Lord in Jerusalem is the temple built upon Mount Zion. Mountains have been places of encounter with the Lord God throughout history. Moses went up Mount Sinai to face the Living God and receive from his own hand the tablets of the Law. Day after day the apostles spent time teaching and preaching about the good news of Jesus the Messiah in the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. Jesus, the New Moses, went up the mountain to nourish the crowd, and he also fled back to the mountain alone to escape the crowd in today’s gospel. We gather here to seek the Lord on his holy mountain, in one of the Lord’s dwelling places, the Liturgy.
Finally, a voice of moderation prevails in the Sanhedrin. One of the leaders counsels the Sanhedrin to be careful about how they treat the apostles of Jesus. With reference to two recent “Messiah-wannabes,” Theudas and Judas the Galilean, this certain member of the Sanhedrin warns against creating even more of an audience for the apostles by harsh treatment or even execution. A slight openness to faith breaks through to these leaders in assembly when their fellow member advises them to adopt a lassiez-faire position with regard to the apostles. Leave them alone, hands off, and wait to see what happens; if their purpose or activity is human in its origins it will destroy itself. Such wisdom is surprising enough, but the Sanhedrin member goes even further to reveal at least an openness to the possibility of faith, “If, on the other hand, it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them without fighting God himself.” Although this speech was persuasive still the apostles suffered a whipping. Such punishment did not have the expected or desired result instead; the apostles were full of joy because they had been worthy to share in the sufferings of the Messiah. This greater identity with Christ served only to encourage the apostles to teach and preach in the house of the Lord, on his holy mountain.
Just like the apostles who attracted a crowd, so too, Jesus in the gospel is dealing with the crowd that has followed him because of his healing on the Sabbath. In every generation, the crowds seek out signs and wonders; they are hungry for something new and miraculous. Even though Jesus knew what he intended to do, he asked Philip, “Where shall we buy bread enough for these people to eat?” Philip’s response reveals that like Nicodemus, he has a long way to go. Philip gets stuck on the economics of the question; he doesn’t yet see with eyes of faith. It was Andrew who offered two fish and five barley loaves saying, “but what good is that for so many?” Though meager, these offerings become the raw material for a miracle. Jesus takes the bread and fish, and he gives thanks-eucharistesen kai edoken-in the Greek. This explicit reference to liturgical language is followed by Jesus’ command that all the fragments be collected so that nothing will go to waste. Also, it just so happens that it is near the feast of Passover. This reference invites the contrast between the Exodus manna, which corrupts the day after it is collected, and the Eucharistic manna, which is available for latter use. Through this manna Jesus, our true prophet-king, provides for those who dwell in his house.