God has provided for us through all of human existence. He fed the Israelites with manna and quail, while they wandered in the desert and no one went hungry. Elijah, through the mercy of God, was able to eat along with a widow and her son for some length of time with only a little oil and a hand full of flour. Through the grace of God, Elisha fed a hundred people with twenty loaves and fresh grain in the ear. Moreover, as God promised, “they shall eat, and there shall be some left over.” (Kings 4:43) In the Gospel today, Jesus repeats this feeding of the hungry but in a much more dramatic fashion. In this miracle, the only one found in all four Gospels, Jesus feeds a crowd of over 5000 people with five loaves and two fish. Jesus in His love for them wants to satisfy the hunger of the crowd.
The crowds had been following Jesus wanting to see miracles and to hear of His promise of a life different from their current misery. Life under the oppressive Romans and the required strict observance of the religious law did not present much hope physically or spiritually for the Jewish people in eking out a daily existence. The Romans unmercifully taxed the Jews to pay for the Roman Legion stationed in Israel and to pay tribute to the Roman emperor. The restrictions, according to the Mosaic law and the resulting punishments for a sinful life, identified God as being a wrathful and vengeful God, not the gentle, loving Father that Jesus described.
The opportunity for freedom from this hope-destroying life led many to follow Jesus to discover the meaning of His words of a new kingdom. The desire to know was so intense that the people raced from one location to the next to hear His words often without any regard of what they would eat. Jesus in his loving concern saw their need and responded by feeding the crowd along the Sea of Galilee. However, no one was prepared the feed the number present. In looking for food, all that the disciples could gather were five loaves of bread and a few fish, not nearly enough to feed even ten people and assuredly, not 5000. Jesus “took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining.” (John 6:11) Jesus, the Son of God and always at the total service of his people, distributed the bread Himself. By the grace of God, the bread and fish do not run out, and even after all ate their fill, there were twelve wicker baskets of food remaining. In this meal, Jesus provides for the physical needs of the crowds. Jesus provided the bread that fed them, that satisfied their physical hunger, the bread that sustained their life.
This meal is a precursor of the events associated with the Last Supper. In the Eucharist, Jesus recognizes our needs and weaknesses, and He accompanies us on the journey toward the Kingdom, providing for our spiritual hunger. As in the miracle of the bread and fish, Jesus at the Last Supper “took” the bread and gave “thanks” and “distributed” the bread to His followers. However, this meal is different, for Jesus now feeds our souls with His words and His body and Blood. The Last Supper is a spiritual supper for it takes faith to believe the words of Jesus, ‘This is My Body” and ‘This is My Blood’ as He changes the bread and wine into Himself. In this transubstantiation, one cannot physically determine a difference in the physical elements of the bread and wine before and after the consecration. The bread and wine look the same and taste no different than before the blessing by the Priest. Therefore, Body and Blood of Jesus is not physical nourishment to be sensed by any of our five senses. The Body and Blood of Jesus instead is spiritual nourishment for our souls as Jesus enter us to make us a holy people. Jesus becomes the bread of life that feeds us, that satisfies our spiritual hunger, the bread that will sustain us forever.
Jesus will not allow the faithful to go hungry In his bountiful nature, there will always be more than is needed for Jesus takes care of all His children. The Lord is always with those who depend on Him.
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (John 6:35)
Deacon Dan Gilbert