At different times when I’ve preached on this gospel I was convinced that when Jesus preached or worked a miracle he always wanted to help those who listened to his teachings or witnessed his miracle to move beyond where they were in their lives and grow to a deeper appreciation of their relationship with God and a greater generosity toward their neighbour.
Preparing this sermon I read an article that told me I was totally wrong with such an interpretation. The multiplication of the loaves and fishes had nothing to do with how the physical needs, the hunger of this particular group of people were met on a certain afternoon in Galilee. The deep meaning of the event has everything to do with how Jesus, the Christ, crucified and risen is present to the church that is us. The focus is on who Jesus is and what he does for those who follow him. especially what he does for us at this very Eucharist.
We can just imagine how the news of what Jesus did spread through the country side. Those present when this happened were so impressed they wanted to come and take him by force and make him their king. Jesus would have none of it. It would be a blood thirsty crowd and mocking Roman soldiers who would declare him king not this admiring crowd of people.
To feed thousands with five barley loaves and two fish and have plenty left over was an astounding feat but as St. Augustine points out, God’s governing of the entire universe is a greater miracle than feeding five thousand men and women, yet we don’t marvel at that. People marvel, we marvel at the feeding of the five thousand not because this miracle is greater, but because it is out of the ordinary.’
When you stop to think of it, this is true.
Every day of life we are surrounded by miracles, the wonders of creation. Augustine goes on to say,’ God is not the kind of being that can be seen with the eyes, and small account is taken of the miracles by which he rules the entire universe and governs all creation because they recur so regularly. Scarcely anyone bothers to consider God’s marvelous, his amazing artistry in every tiny seed or in the countless galaxies that stretch beyond our sight. Isn’t this true, we take these marvel for granted.
People who hold cheap what they see every day are dumbfounded at the sight of extraordinary works even though they are no more wonderful than the others.
We take for granted the wonders of nature, the abundant life that is in the seas. We take for granted that earth is blanketed with so great a variety of trees and vegetation of every kind. We take for granted the awesome and majestic mountain ranges that are the spines of earth. We take for granted the abundant crops that feed us. We take for granted the innumerable variations of flora and fauna that blanket earth. We take for granted the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. We hold cheap what we see every day, the miracle, the beauty, the wonder and the abundance of God’s good creation and we are stunned by the story of the feeding of the five thousand and other miracles done by Jesus.
In his letter to all people of good will Pope Francis calls all people to consider how we are treating the miracles that surround us. He says, ‘If we approach nature and the environment without this sense of awe and wonder, in other words if we are more impressed with the feeding of the multitude than we are with the miracle of creation, if we no longer speak the language of kinship and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on our immediate needs. That’s where we are right now. We see the gifts of nature as ours, to be used as if they were limitless.
What we need to do is to develop a sense of kinship with the wonders of creation, the bounty of creation, the miracles of nature that surround us then we will come to take better care of the gifts of nature. But on the other hand, if we feel intimately united with all that exists and all the miracles of nature that surround us, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. We will have greater respect for Mother Earth and her miracles.
On Christ’s feeding the multitude we might listen to these words of Pope Francis;
Once our grandparents were very careful not to throw away any leftover food. Consumerism has led us to become used to an excess and daily waste of food, to which, at times, we are no longer able to give a just value, which goes well beyond mere economic parameters. We should all remember, however, that the food we throw away is as if stolen from the table of the poor, the hungry! I encourage everyone to reflect on the problem of thrown away and wasted food to identify ways and means that, by seriously addressing this issue, are a vehicle of solidarity and sharing with the needy.
Maybe we can take another look at the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand and another look at the awesome miracle we see every day from sunrise to sunset.