The Gospel this weekend if from the beginning of the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John in which Jesus speaks of himself as being “The Bread of Life.” The section we hear today tells of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish. This took place after a long day of preaching and performing wonders. We are 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 began to follow him to learn more about him. These were people who were hungering for the Good News and when they experienced Jesus they began to wonder if he was not only the bearer of Good News but more than that, prophet or even Messiah; both the messenger and the message. Jesus noticed the crowd was hungry and all they had were five loaves of bread and a couple of fish, and as Simon commented, “what good are these for so many?” What seemed totally inadequate through the eyes of 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. 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 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. It would be far better if we kept our minds open and allow the magnificent works of God to be seen in us and around us. When we think we do not have enough to make a difference, think again. Take what little we have, offer it up to the Lord and ask him to Bless it. The Lord draws out of us gifts and talents we never thought we had. A multiplication of our gifts and talents can take place. 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 the hungers in life. Most importantly 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.
The Gospel for this weekend ends with the multiplication of the loaves and fish, but the chapter of John continues. The next day the crowd searches out Jesus and he questions their motives asking if they came for another free meal. Jesus does not end with that; he continues to teach them that just as he satisfied their human hunger, he will satisfy their spiritual hunger. He leads them from the reality of their human hunger to the realization that they also have a spiritual hunger that must be satisfied. Jesus is the Bread of Life who satisfies the hungry heart.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Image: James Tissot, 1836-1902.