Gospel Jn 6:1-15
Jesus went off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee – or of Tiberias – and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he gave by curing the sick. Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples. It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover.
Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?’ He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, ‘There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Make the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted. When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, ‘Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.’ So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves. The people, seeing this sign that he had given, said, ‘This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, escaped back to the hills by himself.
By Fr. Aldo S.X.
The First Reading of today throws light on the prophetic aspect of the person of Jesus by telling a parallel story to that of the Gospel about a multiplication of loaves done by the prophet Elisha (2Kings 4: 42-44) . The second reading (Eph 4: 1-6) emphasizes an aspect of the Eucharistic life of the Church: the communion built around Christ and nourished by the one Eucharistic bread.
The Gospel contains the powerful symbolism of the bread and of sharing a meal, and it also has an eschatological dimension. It invites us to reflect on faith in Jesus and in his way of interpreting his being Messiah, here expressed through the Old Testament figure of Moses.
Here are some questions that can lead us in reflection and better our practice:
- The bread is multiplied because someone “very small” has the courage to renounce hanging on to his security (even though it was minimal) risking failure or being put to shame. The “boy” of the Gospel story believes in Jesus, even though Jesus had promised nothing on this occasion. Would I/we have done the same?
- The boy is an insignificant person, the loaves are few and the fish even fewer. In the hands of Jesus everything becomes great and beautiful. There is a huge disproportion between what we are and what God can make of us, if we place ourselves in His hands. “Nothing is impossible for God”: converting the hardest of hearts, transforming evil into an instrument for good… God fills in every disproportion between us and him. Do I/we really believe this, in the bottom of my heart, even when everything seems to contradict it?
- The material bread offered by God refers us to the bread we ought to share with so many men and women who struggle desperately for a slice of bread. Perhaps the name of the bread that the poor need most is opportunity. When we pray “give us this day our daily bread” do we at least think of those who not only have no bread, but not even have the chance to earn it in a dignified manner?
- Physical hunger and material bread remind us also of the “hunger for God” and the eschatological banquet. These are truths that we often put out of our thoughts because we prefer to think that they are far and distant from us. And yet, if we keep them present, they would help us to see the relative value of so many events and problems that seem to us greater than ourselves, and to live a more serene life busying ourselves only with what is essential. When, during the Eucharistic celebration we say “…as we wait in joyful hope” what are we really waiting for?