After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”
One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.
When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
To what lengths will Jesus go to meet us personally, to encounter us face to face? The feeding of the five thousand is such a well-known story with its Eucharistic overtones and rich symbolism. One detail, however, tends to get missed: “Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining.” Wouldn’t a buffet counter have been so much more efficient? Couldn’t he have asked the people to help themselves and pass it on? Or delegated the distribution to his disciples. But that would have defeated one of his chief purposes, wouldn’t it?
Jesus is not simply interested in feeding the people. He wants to meet each one for himself. So he distributes the food—personally—to each of the people there. Five thousand people (not counting women and children) represent not just five thousand stomachs to fill but ten thousand hands to receive, ten thousand eyes to look into, five thousand hearts to touch. Jesus did not have to feed the people. Hunger, for a few hours or even several, might be inconvenient and uncomfortable but hardly life-threatening. But how else could he have met each of the people there!
To what lengths will he go to meet each of us today!
—Fr. Charles Rodrigues, S.J., Associate Novice Director at the Jesuit Novitiate of St. Alberto Hurtado, St. Paul, MN. For more information on Jesuit vocations, click here.
Lord, sometimes we feel inadequate in being your light to others. Sometimes we finish our day and question if we made a difference to anyone. It’s so easy to let our dreams and hopes diminish when we focus on the challenge, the risk, and the criticism. Lord, help us to be like the young boy who generously gives his food to you and watches you multiply it to feed the crowd. This day we pray that all that we have is returned to you. Bless us so our effort to be your light is multiplied by your Spirit. And therefore we will go forward confident that we will build the kingdom with you right by our side.
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