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the feeding of the five thousand

Posted on August 6, 2017 at 5:30 AM

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is familiar to us all – so familiar that one might ask what is there that is new to be said about it? But the point, of course, when speaking of Sacred Scripture is not to find new things to say about it, but rather to remind ourselves of what has always been said about it, to refresh in our minds the Eternal Truths that it contains – Truths, we must remember, that we have by way of Divine Revelation.

 

So let us begin by considering the miracle in the literal sense. What are we to make of the fact that our Lord was able to feed so great a number of people - 5,000 men, plus woman and children? There they are in the wilderness, far away from the towns and villages of the region. It is getting late and, as the disciples point out, the people have no food with them. But Jesus takes the little food that the twelve have with them and multiplies it so that the vast multitude present are fed – with much left over! That he can do so is a testament to the Divine Power that our Lord possesses.

And we might do well to think in this context of Moses, and how our Lord says somewhere in the Gospels, speaking of himself, that one greater than Moses is here. Moses also fed multitudes in the desert; but the food he supplied came not from him, but from heaven. Christ feeds these people himself, by way of his own power. Moses was the intermediary; but Jesus needs no intermediary, for he is God incarnate.

 

We must also look at this parable from a didactic sense: what does it teach us, who as Christians are called to be as Christ-like as possible, about how we are to live as Christians? The answer to this, we are told by that great Father of the Church St Jerome,

is that just as Christ has compassion on these hungry people and feeds them, so we too must show charitable concern for the poor and needy. The Christian duty of caring for those in need is evident to anyone who has even a cursory knowledge of the Bible, for we are told many places in Sacred Scripture about this duty. And the importance of this charitable duty can not be overstressed; for as we are taught by our Lord's prophetic words in the parable of the sheep and the goats, those who reject the poor and needy will be set aside by him at the Last Judgement.

And finally today let us also consider this miracle from a sacramental point of view. Note well the description St Matthew provides us of our Lord's actions on this occasion, how he tells us that he took the bread, blessed it, and broke it. The Eucharistic overtones are unmistakable given how closely these words resemble those used in the Gospels of the Last Supper and the institution of the Holy Eucharist. And if those similarities were not enough, our Lord himself links this miracle with the miracle of the Eucharist in St John's account of the occasion. For immediately after, when those who had been fed on bread come to him again looking for more he begins to speak to them of the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood … confusing many of those present at the time, and causing them to ask how could this man give them his blood to drink and his flesh to eat … but we know, of course, that nothing is impossible with God, and that our Lord does indeed do just that in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.

 

And remember also the words of our Lord on that occasion: he says who eat his flesh and drink his blood will have eternal life and he will raise them up on the last day; but those who do not eat his flesh and drink his blood will have no life in them. The salvation of souls is always the primary concern of our Lord – and this should not surprise us for we know that he came into the world that all men might be saved – and so, of course, it must be the primary concern of all Christians … the salvation not only of their own souls but also that of others. It should therefore be a matter of great sorrow for us that all men have not been brought to know the truth of the Christian faith … and of even greater sorrow that of those who profess themselves to be Christians so many partake so infrequently of the healing and saving Sacrament of the Holy Eucharistic … and even then carelessly and unworthily … our Lord sets the banquet of Salvation before us, the foretaste of the great heavenly banquet that is to come … but no one, not us, and not the Lord, can force them to partake.

However, just as it is not the part of the Christian to innovate when it comes to doctrine or interpretation of Sacred Scripture, neither is it our part to despair. Our part is to do what we can to bring them to believe in the Eternal Truths our Lord gave us that they may live them out faithfully, leading them gently to God by the preaching of the Word and the example of our lives … and of course, praying for them always in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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