Feeding Five Thousand

Mark 6: 34-44
1Jn.4: 7-10 / Psa 72

He had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.
(Mark 6:34)

There is adequate provision,
It is love that is lacking still;
When hearts are moved by compassion,
Millions will eat and have their fill.

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things. By this time it was late in the day, so His disciples came to Him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But He answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to Him, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five–and two fish.” Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then He gave them to His disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand. (Mark 6:34-44)

Reflection

This is the only miracle that Jesus performed which is found in all four Gospel books of the Bible. What makes it even more remarkable is the accuracy in details common to all of them: 1) five thousand people, 2) concern of the apostles, 3) amount of money needed to buy the bread to feed them, 4) five loaves and two fish, 5) making the people sit in groups of hundreds and fifties, 6) praying and breaking of the bread and the fish, and 7) the twelve baskets of broken pieces of bread and fish left over that the apostles were able to gather.

What is the significance of all these? First of all, this miracle was meant to recall for the Jews God’s divine mercy, when He saved the Israelite nation from starvation in the desert during its exodus from Egypt (Ex.16:4-12). This was the Son doing His Father’s work again. Secondly, if the miracle recalled the past, it was also meant to foretell the future, as the followers of the Bread of Life would be commemorating the “breaking of the bread” for the spiritual nourishment of millions in the Holy Eucharist of the Mass. Finally, Jesus invited His apostles to share in caring for the hungry: “You give them something to eat.” God wants us to take the initiative first, (just as the apostles looked for the five loaves and two fish), and then He will do the rest. Jesus showed His great love for the people, who were both physically and spiritually hungry (“like sheep without a shepherd”). That was why before He fed them bread, He first nourished them with God’s Word. He showed how much love God lavishes on His people (all ate to their fullest, with twelve baskets more to give). “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent His only Son into the world so that we might have life through Him” (1 Jn. 4:9).

All of us have a great hunger that no food or material thing can ever satisfy. Only Jesus can fill it. It is only by entering into a personal relationship with Him that God can fill this inner void, and fulfill our hunger for meaning in this life, and hope for the Life to come. And like the bread that fed the five thousand, His gift of eternal life is absolutely free for the taking!

We praise and thank You, Father God, for providing us with all the things we need in life, and for nourishing us with Your Word, and the Bread of Life, Whom we receive in the Holy Mass. Help us to share these blessings with others, we pray. Amen.

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