Food for the Hungry

Matthew 14: 13-21
Num 11:4b-15/ Ps 81:12-17

They do not need to go away. Give them some food yourselves.
(Matthew 14:16)

In God’s compassion just believe,
He grants to everyone who prays;
What little that we have to give
He will increase it with His grace.

When Jesus heard what had happened, He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed Him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to Him and said, “This is a deserted place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them some food yourselves.” They answered, “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish.” Jesus said, “Bring them here to me.” Then He directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He pronounced the blessing, and broke the loaves. Then He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 14:13-21)

Reflection

Upon learning of the death of John the Baptist (His cousin), Jesus wanted to be alone somewhere where He could grieve, and perhaps seek some solace from the Father. But because of the wonders and healings that He had been performing, throngs of people sought Him out on foot wherever He went, and gave Him no rest.

The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish is found in all four Gospel writers. The three synoptic evangelists (Matthew, Mark and Luke) relate this incident right after the death of John the Baptist at the hands of King Herod. Only the Gospel version of St. John differs from the three writers as his Gospel continues to reveal Jesus as the “Bread of Life, whoever comes to (Him) will never be hungry, and whoever believes in (Him) will never thirst” (John 6:35).

Note that Jesus and His disciples had gone to “a deserted place”, an empty space, where they had nothing with them but a few loaves of bread and two fish. The situation was similar to the time of Moses when the Israelites were starving in the desert, and Yahweh God provided manna from heaven. Like His Father before Him, Jesus also showed His compassion, and provided the food that His followers needed, showing them that He was really the Son of God. Although He was in a state of grief for the death of His cousin John, His first concern was to feed the hungry. Never a thought for His own needs. This recalls his 40-day fasting in the desert where even in his extreme hunger, He resisted the temptation to turn stones into bread, and instead told the tempter, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” (Mt.4:4).

What is the Lord’s message for us in today’s Gospel reading? Will we be like the Israelites (first reading, Num.11:5-6) who still complained even after God had given them manna to eat in the desert? Or will we heed the words of our Lord, Who said, “Give them (the poor and hungry) food yourselves”? And Jesus did not mean only food (or money) that will nourish their bodies, but spiritual food, the Word of God that will nourish and strengthen their souls. We all have the responsibility to give to those who have less, even if we have but little to give. In the wilderness of life so many thousands are going hungry, not only for food to eat, but for satisfying the hunger for meaning in their lives, which only the gifts of faith, hope and love from God can provide.

Thank You, Father God, for providing all the things that we need, food on the table, loving family and true friends to break bread with, and the Church and community from which we find our spiritual nourishment. Guide and inspire us to pay forward Your blessings to others in need, especially the poor and hungry, and those who are still spiritually famished, and need to find our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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