Breaking the Bread of Mercy

Matthew 14:13-21
Nm 11:4b-15 / Psa 81

. . . looking up to heaven, He said the blessing, and broke the loaves. Then He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.
(Matthew 14:19)

When we are troubled and depressed,
Let’s be more merciful instead,
For in His turn God will address
Our problems like the thousands fed.

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 remote 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 something to eat.”“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” He said. And He directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He said 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)


A careful study of the life of Jesus in the Gospels would reveal that there was always something symbolic in all His wondrous works and words; and if not linked to Old Testament scriptures, they prefigured a future event. In the case of today’s Gospel passage, some bible scholars have attributed the multiplication of the bread and fish as a parallel to the feeding of the Israelites in the desert with manna from heaven, signifying that it was God Himself Who was feeding the Jews. At the same time, this miracle was a prophetic sign of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Bread of Life which would be “broken and shared” by millions of Catholics every day. As Jesus prophesied in another Gospel: “For the Bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33). Our Lord instituted this sacrament when He broke bread with His apostles in His Last Supper with them, saying, “This is my body which will be given for you; do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19). Two of His disciples also recognized Him when He broke bread with them as they were traveling to Emmaus (Luke 24:30-31).

What is our Lord’s message for us in today’s Gospel? It may well be that God will always take care of our needs, as He did for the Israelites for forty years in the desert. But more importantly, our Lord shows us the importance of having compassion for those in need. From the little that was available, Jesus gave the hungry masses more than they needed (perhaps as provision on their way back to their homes). Even though our Lord was in a state of grief and agitation at that time – His cousin John the Baptist had just been beheaded by King Herod— this did not prevent Him from addressing the problems of the multitudes following Him. His act of compassion for the hungry reflected the love of God for His people. When we are troubled and confused, bothered by problems or personal loss, Jesus shows us that this is the time when we become Christ-like if we can show mercy to those in need. St. Paul said, “Just as you excel in everything– in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love — see that you also excel in this grace of giving” (2Cor.8:7).

Lord God, help us to see that the needs of most people are much greater than our own; that it is in showing compassion and mercy to the needy that we will also receive compassion and mercy from You, our loving Father. Thank You for all the blessings You have given to us, Your children. Amen.

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