“Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature”
(Mark 16: 15)
Let us remember God’s Teaching, contained in His Word and in doing so,
Feeding The Five Thousand
Ordinary 17 Year B St. John 6: 1 — 15
1. “This is truly the Prophet.”
The people correctly identified Jesus as the One promised by God through the great Prophets. Our Lord, in turn, correctly identified their intention to proclaim Him their King — who would deliver them from the tyranny of the Roman conquerors.
Jesus would have none of that! What He came to restore and save required the long and committed determination of the people to prepare for with holy, consecrated lives. Proclaiming a Messiah or King was to take the easy path and load all the problems onto the leader.
We can be rather hasty in commenting on their behaviour, but if we listen to religious people in our own era, we often observe a similar situation. The world is in a mess: we throw our hands up in the air and shout “Come Lord Jesus”, thinking, He will put it all right for us.
We can be rather slow in looking back at our own performance, (not just individually, but also collectively as a Church or nation) and asking where we may have failed, or at least, where we can do better. We need to apply our Lord’s teaching and commandments humbly to help “make straight the way of the Lord” who will return at the appointed time and not before.
2. “Gather the fragments left over.”
The disciples were ordered by Jesus to collect the left overs — the remaining “fragments from the five barley loaves”. Twelve large cane baskets of food were collected because the crowd simply couldn’t eat anymore.
This is a rather strange miracle. Our Lord did not miraculously increase the number of barley loaves, which we might call scones or bread rolls. A ton of bread was given out but it all came from the five scones Jesus broke in His hands. It was not a multiplication of the number of loaves, as we might sometimes imagine, but a multiplication of bread at the very moment it was to be given out.
Reflection on this action taken by Jesus to meet the needs of the people (so hungry for the words He was giving them) will yield many different interpretations. One which must surely be a great help to us in our witnessing for the Lord is this: when we take up a task allotted to us by God, provided we hold nothing back, He will “stretch” our efforts — magnify them until they reach the boundaries He has already set. We must not set the boundaries as though we have the authority and the power. Our Lord asks us to be His voice, His hands, His feet. He also asks us not to fear our own limits. It is then that we will discover that He gives the increase, the wherewithal to meet a given situation.
This is very important for us to understand, when we think of spreading the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Every member of the Lord’s Household is called to bear witness to the joy of belonging to the family of God — and to take seriously the privilege of inviting others to join this Household, and to belong to this great family.
We may not all be in a position to do that by direct contact. In true evangelisation that is irrelevant. We are called to study the things of the Lord and pray earnestly for the spreading of His Word to all: near and far.
Our Lord takes our gifts of prayer, study, meditation and other good works and — as it were — plugs them into His spiritual power-grid. They will then be given to others somewhere, sometime to the greater glory of God.
Our Lord has shown in this miracle that He happily receives what we can give, and then multiplies it to meet the needs of people as He determines. This takes faith on our part, and He will increase our faith as long as we take courage and do our best to apply it.
3. “The people saw the sign.”
Our Lord reveals Himself as a provider in great abundance. This may appear to conflict with the shortage of the most essential needs of many people around the world who die during food shortages and droughts. We might even say, “What is the use of talking about abundance when miracles are performed, if people are suffering dreadful shortages of food and water?”
If we are not careful, we will end up asking the wrong questions and coming up with the wrong answers. Jesus calls for a radical interpretation of Torah — the Commandments — and in the Sermon on the Mount distils His teaching into the Beatitudes which are the real cure for our needs in this world, and those of our neighbor.
When we open our hearts to the needs of others, it is amazing just how far our efforts can extend, far beyond any horizon we could have imagined. It is then that we can pray the prayer of the first Christians, chosen to complete the text of the New Testament:
Come Lord Jesus