Following the death of John the Baptist, Jesus goes to a deserted place, only to find a vast crowd in need of his teaching and guidance. There he nourishes body and soul as he takes, blesses, breaks and gives the bread and fish to feed the 5000.
The centurion in the Gospel of Matthew reveals his trust in the healing power of Jesus Christ. Familiar with the role of authority, this soldier places himself under the command of Jesus…giving us a powerful example of how we offer our lives in the service of the Lord.
The Gospel this week offers a familiar story that many of us have heard on numerous occasions. The miracle of the fishes and loaves offers a rich opportunity to reflect on a variety of themes that are central to the Christian disciple.
In order to do this, let’s take a step-by-step review of this story:
1. Jesus hears of the death of John the Baptist 2. Jesus seeks solitude in a deserted place 3. The crowds eagerly seek Jesus 4. Jesus sees the crowds and pities them 5. Jesus cures their sick 6. The people are hungry and far from home 7. The disciples tell Jesus to send the people away 8. Jesus tells the disciples to feed the people 9. The disciples say there is only 5 loaves & 2 fish 10. Jesus TAKES, BLESSES, BREAKS, GIVES 11. There is an abundance (leftovers of food!)
Here are a few observations:
1. Jesus’ heart is moved with sorrow for the death of John the Baptist. Perhaps he is considering his own approaching death, and he seeks some quiet personal time. Yet when the crowds crush in upon him, the Lord pities and responds to their needs. It is the generous and loving heart of Jesus that is worthy of reflection and observation here.
2. Jesus observes that many people are sick, and the Lord takes the time to heal their bodies.
3. The people have been with Jesus all day. They are far from home, and they have not eaten. While the disciples want the Lord to send them away, Jesus commands them to feed the people; when they use the limited food supply as their excuse, Jesus takes, blesses, breaks, and gives them an abundance. Thus, Jesus cares for the people – body and soul in a way that is truly overwhelming.
4. The same verbs of taking, blessing, breaking, and giving are used to describe the Lord at the Last Supper. This feeding miracle is just another form of Eucharist!
Jesus moves beyond his own personal concerns to love, respond, and serve others. The Lord cares for both the physical and spiritual needs of people in a generous way. May we follow his example in our own lives of service and ministry.
Note: This post was first published on July 29, 2014.