The feeding of the five thousand

Published August 1, 2020, 10:26 PM

by Manila Bulletin

MATTHEW 14:13-21

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. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. 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.” Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” Then he said, “Bring them here to me,” 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. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over—twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.

The Eucharist: Food for Our Journey

Grief and sadness overwhelm us when someone dear to us passes away. When John the Baptist is beheaded, Jesus wants to withdraw by himself to a lonely place. He needs time and space to grieve over his cousin’s death. John is not only Jesus’ cousin but also his herald. With the passing of John, Jesus realizes that he is crossing the Rubicon and that his mission to inaugurate God’s Kingdom on earth is already on full throttle.

Jesus’ time of solitude is cut short by the crowds that trail him, bringing their sick. Jesus does not insist on a very legitimate human need for bereavement but instead turns his attention selflessly to the throng that has formed around him. He is their Good Shepherd whose heart, filled with compassion, goes out to them. He patiently attends to the needs of everyone, easing their pain and restoring them to health.

In the evening, while Jesus is on the thick of ministering to the people, his disciples broach the idea of dismissing the crowds so that they can buy food. The disciples no longer want to get involved. As far as they are concerned, Jesus and their group have already done much for the people. They should now go away and fend for themselves.

Jesus takes the occasion to teach them about discipleship. The disciples should not put a limit to their involvement with the crowd as they should learn self-sacrifice. The disciples reply that they only have very meager resources, only five loaves and two fish. Besides, they may already be exhausted after attending to the sick people in the crowd. Jesus encourages his disciples to look within themselves and discover their inner resources. He empowers them by teaching them that they could always give more of themselves to others. The miracle happens after the disciples surrender their meager resources to Jesus.

We often think we bring very little to our family, school, workplace, community, and country. What we contribute can be seen as miniscule or insignificant. Jesus shows us, however, that once we entrust our little and puny selves to the hands of God, we can witness another miracle in our own time.

The words and actions that Jesus uses in multiplying bread and fish are identical to those of the Last Supper. Jesus continues to feed us with his body and blood, our food for the journey, as we entrust our meager resources to the hands of God.

SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord 2020,” ST. PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 632-895-9701; Fax 632-895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: