17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - B
Hunger is a condition that all living organisms have to contend with in order to survive. Since food is the most basic and fundamental need of a human being, we all get hungry whether we are billionaires or paupers.
The multiplication of the loaves and fish was not just a miracle that showed the power of Jesus to feed thousands out of five barley loaves and two fish but rather an event that points to something grand and will continue to happen in the future.
The time setting is very important: "the Jewish feast of the Passover is near". It brings us back to the Old Testament when the Israelites, after the Passover, left Egypt and they were on the way to the Promised Land. On their journey, they got hungry and asked Moses to provide them food. Jesus is now the New Moses who was about to feed his people with food which was different from the manna they got in the desert.
When Jesus saw the thousands coming to him, he saw it as an opportunity rather than a problem. And because he wanted to invite his Apostles to take part in that opportunity, he asked: "Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?" According to Philip's statistical expertise, it was just impossible: "Two hundred days salary would not be enough for each of them to have a little." Andrew offered a rather poor but generous suggestion yet still questioning: There is a boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?"
Jesus asked that the people recline. When the Israelites, who were slaves, ate the Passover in Egypt they were standing, as if ready for the journey. Now the people, being freemen, could eat reclining. "Now there was a great deal of grass in that place." Why would there be plenty of grass in that desert? Because Jesus now as the Good Shepherd is bringing his sheep to a green pasture.
Then the miracle took place after Jesus took the loaves and the fish, gave thanks and distributed them to the people. Everybody had their fill. This happens when we offer to God our poverty: God takes and blesses it and by his providence multiplies it to the full. The miracle was not a magic that offered entertainment to satisfy the need for the spectacular! It was rather an opportunity for man to experience God's super-generosity in the midst of poverty and selfishness. No matter how small our contribution is, when it is offered to God it overflows beyond our imagining.
When the people saw the sign that Jesus performed, they thought he was the Prophet they had been waiting for and wanted to make him king. They must have thought that finally a messiah had come who would give them food. Their hunger was satisfied and yet they missed the real message. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, withdrew to the mountain by himself.
The next three Sundays will be the discourses of Jesus about the Bread of Life......