16th April 2021
First Reading: Acts 5:34-42.
Gospel: Jn 6:1 - 15.
Our Today’s gospel gives an introduction to the understanding of what life-giving union with Jesus means. The multiplication of bread and fish is a preparation for the gift which God gives in Christ at the Eucharistic Banquet. From the background of the episode, the paschal feast is near; the atmosphere is one of expectation, wonder, and peace. The people had come a long way to listen to Jesus; they needed rest and food. Faced by the people’s obvious need, his disciples had different responses.
Phillips’ response to Jesus shows a classic misunderstanding. Philip thinks of the physical means by which to food must be provided and points to the physical impossibility of it happening. Another disciple, Andrew, indicates that there is a little boy who has little food. Thinking in purely human terms he thinks that perhaps sharing with one another even the little that they all have with them might help. But even that, in his own words, will not be enough. However, the boy’s role will prove crucial as Jesus will use the little that he had to feed the large multitude.
He transforms human insufficiency into divine abundance. Jesus then performs actions that strongly suggestEucharistic setting: taking, giving thanks, and distributing the bread to the crowds. The same is done with the fish. Still, it is not necessary to link these actions to the Eucharist because it could be a simple blessing over the food that would be pronounced by every pious Jew. Significantly, there is no notion of breaking the bread.
The crowd seeing the miracle had a wrong misunderstanding of the identity of Jesus. First, they identify Jesus as a prophet thinking perhaps of Moses or Elisha who both miraculously provided food. Deuteronomy 18:15 where Moses states that “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me”, is often quoted as the background for the statement. Second, they want to make Jesus the King, thinking that Jesus, like other messianic figures of the day, performed signs in order to attract a following and gain power. Jesus’flight from the crowd clearly shows that he’s not interested in being like a prophet or assuming earthly powers. His intentions lie far beyond that.
What can we learn from this episode?
First, we can learn from the boy who was willing to hand over the little food he had brought. He showed a most generous instinct by giving what he could, modest though it was. When we are generous, our little offering is multiplied and returned to us; our fatigue is lightened as well. Secondly, there is the action of Jesus himself, who took the food that was offered and, giving thanks to God, somehow fed the large crowd. If we give generously from what we have, the Lord works great things through us. And assures eternity from such works; for the bread Jesus offers is a sign and guarantee of eternity. Lastly, we must trust in Providence. If what we are doing is God’s work, ultimately it will succeed.