Date: Sunday, July 29, 2018
I grew up on Wonder Bread. Even “enriched” it didn’t have the texture and taste of homemade bread. Today we can choose multigrain and whole wheat breads. Lately I am buying oatmeal and potato breads. They are great making a sandwich and for toasting. Why talk about bread? Today we are proclaiming and listening to Jesus feeding a multitude with loaves of bread and fish in the Gospel according to St. John.
The miracle of the feeding of the multitude is found in all four Gospels. St. John, the evangelist, does not call it a miracle but “a sign.” For him and the Community of the Beloved Disciple, there is always more than what meets the eye. We must, so to speak “break the bread” in order to come to the deeper meaning or significance of event.
It happens near the feast of Passover. Feeding of the multitude is key to understanding the Last Supper. The discourse on the Bread of Life explains the institution of Holy Communion that is not explicitly mentioned in this gospel. The feeding of the vast crowd and the teaching of Jesus in chapter 6 is very Eucharistic. You may call it a prelude to the last meal Jesus and his disciples share together.
Jesus intends to feed the vast crowd. Philip, thinking only of the monetary cost of buying sufficient food, concludes it is impossible. Andrew points out that there is a boy with five barely loaves and two fish. Facing a multitude of problems in our society we may be overwhelmed like Philip and do nothing. Or, accepting the difficulty, we may identify some resources like Andrew and entrust them to Jesus. Some say the world is too complex, too secular or too closed to the message of the Gospel. But we can humbly offer simple gifts of kindness, friendship, honesty, integrity and fidelity to Jesus. The Lord performs the miracle.
St. John, the evangelist, two times makes reference to barley bread. This is bread for the poor! We recognize our own poverty and are mindful of so many people around us who are hungry and lacking fundamental requisites of life: fresh water, lodging, clothing and health care.
After the feeding of the multiple Jesus directs the disciples to gather the fragments so nothing is wasted. The bread fragments fill 12 wicker baskets. What is not used today may be used tomorrow. “What we give to the Lord is never wasted but is gathered into God’s plan.” The Gospel is not just about what Jesus gives to us but we give to the Lord and share with others.