There is no doubt that the story of the multiplication of the loaves is one of the most known miracle story of all scripture. There is so much symbolism and theology in the story that we could do an entire course on it. We could fill your minds with understanding of how it reveals who Christ is and the theology of the Eucharist. Just consider a few connections which are in this gospel. We have the connection between Jesus feeding people in a deserted place with bread and Moses feeding the people in the wilderness with manna.
We have the Old Testament prophet Elijah multiplying flour and oil. We have Elisha the prophet feeding 100 with 20 barley loaves with some left over (2 Ki. 4:42-43). Now in this the new covenant, Jesus feeds 5,000 with five barley loaves. Jesus has now done something greater than the prophets of old.
God had prophesied through Moses that he would send them a prophet like him who will speak to his people (Deut. 18:18). It is no wonder the people not only think he is a great prophet but the reincarnation of Moses, Elijah or Elisha. This they believe is the one who would free them from the bondage of the Romans.
We have Jesus praying words of thanksgiving over the bread before it is distributed. The Greek word Jesus uses for thanksgiving is “eucharistia” – which translation means giving thanks. Those same words are repeated by Jesus the night before he dies over another loaf of bread. Eucharist, giving thanks, gives us a meaning for what we receive. A clear understanding of what Jesus intended when he said unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you will not have life within you. Clearly this multiplication of loaves for 5,000 was a foreshadowing of what would later follow. It is this very bread that feeds us and satisfies our hunger. “I am the bread of life’ whoever comes to me will no longer hunger and he who believes in me will never thirst” (Jn. 6:35).
There is more symbolism but if you have heard me preach or have read my homilies you know by now that I seldom take the time to teach. Paul the apostle said “I preach Christ and him crucified” and I believe we could not have a better formula for preaching. In the end our preaching is not about our ability to make the theological connections. It is more about helping us respond to the words and works of Christ and a loving God.
How Jesus is feeding us with his words today is far more important than how he fed the 5,000 on that day. I believe there is one passage in all of the wonderful symbolisms in this story that moves us beyond a focus on the theology to us having a mystical moment with God. A moment when we clearly hear God’s voice and we respond by taking a leap of faith that belies who we see ourselves to be. That mystical event is the moment when God’s love penetrates our hearts deep within us and fills us his mercy, joy and peace. The disciples did exactly that in as they began to carry fragments of bread and fish to the crowds.
But before they embraced the miracle and before they carried those fragments to the people they encouraged Jesus to send them away. Send them away so they could find something to eat was their response to their hunger. Instead of sending them away Jesus responds by saying feed them yourselves and they panicked. Their response to Jesus was to say “No way can we do that; it is impossible. Their response was the one their intellect said was the only one possible – send them away. It was not a response of faith; one that believes that with God all things are possible. How could two fish and five barley loaves feed five thousand? But listen again to the words of Jesus as he responds to their reliance on self and not on the power of God. Jesus says to his disciples “bring them to me” (Mt. 14:18).
Take a moment to allow the words of Jesus move from your ears to your hearts.
“What do you have” he said to them.
We have nothing Lord only a few loaves and couple of fish. “Give it to me” he says.
Today God asks you that very same question, “What do you have.”
I have nothing Lord, only a desire, nothing spectacular. “Give it to me” he says to us today.
There is a spiritual truth in that question of what do you have. It is a spiritual truth which will transform us if we only will give him the little we have. That spiritual truth is a little in the hands of God is always enough. Offer what little you have and follow as the Spirit leads you to those who need to be touched by the love of God.
I have lived a sinful life Lord. I have nothing to offer, I doubt, I fear, I lack trust so I try to overcome my failings by works.
My child, I did not ask you what you lacked; I asked you what you have.
I have a desire Lord to be a disciple. I have a desire to be a faithful follower and to live a life that pleases you.
Give all of that to me he says. Then taking what we bring to him he first gives thanks for our offering and then he blesses it.
Do you believe this is possible in your life? Why not? The disciples did not believe that 5,000 could be fed by Jesus but they were. Could he not take what we bring to him and transform it into something that could feed others?
That can and will happen if we but give to God what we have. Today I pray for all of you who read this homily I pray for you with the words of Paul “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in …(you)” (Eph. 1:18).