What are our loaves and fish in this current age?
Today’s first reading begins with the beautiful words from Isaiah calling all to come to the water to drink and to eat without payment. The first reading prepares us for the gospel story which is not only told by Matthew, but by all the evangelists, about how Jesus showed his love and compassion towards the crowd by feeding them.
As is true of so many of the wonderful gospel stories, there is more in the story than meets the eye of the casual observer. All four evangelists report that there were five loaves and two fish; all four evangelists say there were twelve baskets of fragments left over; five thousand men ate not including women and children.
This gospel is not about showing off the power of Jesus as the son of God who can do magic to feed thousands of people with only five loaves and two fish. Instead, it is about elevating the positive reaction of Jesus in a terrible situation or a terrible day as we might say.
Jesus has had a ‘bad day’ because he has just received terrible news that his cousin John the Baptist is dead. Like all human beings, he is distraught, in trauma and wanting to be alone. So, he withdraws himself into the wilderness. And what happens? A crowd forms. They follow him out into the country to be with him.
Jesus is in a real dilemma here: a bad day with the sad news of his cousin, wanting to be left alone and then facing thousands of ‘hungry’ people in the crowd.
There are some questions which help us to reflect and relate to this Sunday’s reading: What is his reaction to them? Does he run away? Does he lock his door? Does he ask them to wait for an appointment? Does he ask them to wait until he is feeling better?
Of course not. He cares for them and heals them and feeds them with not only physical food but also with spiritual reassurance.
There is a real challenge for me and for each one of us with this gospel. What would we do or how would we react when we find ourselves in the mist of a dilemma: balancing our own needs and the needs of the people around us?
The answer can be found in this gospel with the small contribution of ‘five loaves and two fish’. We see that when we translate our care and compassion into positive action, the little action that we are able to do – is multiplied by God’s grace in such a way that it becomes more than sufficient for the need. All that Jesus needs from us to feed the hungry crowds of this world is our own ‘five loaves and two fish’. Why didn’t Jesus just go on and produce bread from thin air to feed the crowd? Because God needs our ‘five loaves and two fish’ in order to perform the amazing miracle; God needs our initiative to make things happen, God needs our contribution in order to bring change and make this world a better place.
Today, let’s ask our Lord to support us with the Eucharistic and strengthen our love for one another with a positive action. So that with our own contribution: a loaf, a fish, a smile or a phone call, God can make a miracle in our world.