WelCom August 2020
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 14: 13-21
13 When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. 14 When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.
15 When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, ‘This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.’ 16 Jesus said to them, ‘There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.’ 17 But they said to him, ‘Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.’ 18 Then he said, ‘Bring them here to me,’ 19 and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.
20 They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over – twelve wicker baskets full. 21 Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.
The Feeding of the Five Thousand
A reflection on Mt 14:13-21
There was great sadness when Jesus and his disciples learned Herod had murdered John the Baptist, so Jesus and the disciples took a boat to a lonely place to escape the crowd and be by themselves. However, the crowd had followed them around the coast. When Jesus and his disciples reached the shore, they realised the time-out period for getting over their grief was over as a crowd of several thousand had gathered. Jesus, being filled with pity, spent his day curing their sick.
When evening came, the disciples suggested sending the people away to their villages so they could buy food. Jesus said that was unnecessary telling his disciples to give them something to eat themselves. After the disciples assessed the cost, they concluded feeding all the people was prohibitive. But they were able to find a boy with five barley loaves and two fish.
There is a precedent about the Multiplication of Loaves in 2 Kings [Old Testament]; ‘Elisha received the first fruits of twenty barley loaves and fresh grain which he told his servant to give the people to eat. But his servant replied, “How can I serve this to a hundred men?” Elisha insisted; Yahweh says, “They will eat and have some left over”, he served them, they ate and had some left over, as Yahweh had said’ (2 Kings 4:42-44). And from the prophet Zechariah, we learn, ‘Not by force, nor strength, but by Spirit, says the Lord of hosts’, (Zc. 4:6).
Jesus took the boy’s meagre contribution, blessed it, multiplied the food and gave it to his disciples to distribute to all present. Jesus’ generosity goes further than just the need; he lavished the people with so much that 12 baskets of broken pieces of bread and fish were left over. The crowd were many more than Elisha’s 100. Jesus fed 5000 men plus their women and children, who would likely have made the crowd around 20,000 people.
This is more than just a good story; it has a deeper lesson for all of us. From the little boy we learn that people’s resources are never too little to be worth offering to God. And if they are not too insignificant to God, they may be more useful than we think for helping others around us. From his disciples we learn they were totally dependent on Jesus to do anything. From their actions we learn that even though as humans we know extraordinarily little, we doubt what God can do before we refer our problems to Him. Therefore, in acknowledgement of our human weakness let us be guided by St Paul, who writes ‘Glory to Him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine’, (Ep 3:30).
Do we take today’s gospel example, which shows the immensity of God’s life, God’s love and God’s generosity, to those we meet? Do we limit the extent of what God can do through us by allowing the extent of our own smallness to interfere with the potential fruits of His greatness?