Prior to the 2nd Vatican Council, the Catholic Church had a yearly cycle of readings that didn’t change from year to year, but during the Vatican Council the Bishops’ decided to provide a more varied selection of readings from the bible, creating a three year cycle using the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke over three years. The Gospel of John is typically used for solemnities and during holy week. The shorter Gospel of Mark however is often supplemented with readings from Matthew and Luke and sometimes John’s Gospel.
The account of the feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle story recorded in each of the four Gospels. Matthew and Mark’s Gospel record two multiplication stories affirming there was both the feeding of 4000 and 5000. So why John's Gospel. In John’s narrative of the feeding of the 5000, we find the conclusion of the multiplication story when Jesus addresses what he sees as a conflict in the hearts of the people - when he finds them seeking to be physically fed rather than spiritually fed
In John's gospel we are told the miracle of the multiplication of loaves happens during the time of Passover when everyone is expected to be in Jerusalem for the festival. Instead, the apostles and some of the crowd are more interested in following Jesus to a mountain near the sea of Galilee, than being at the Passover. One might remember that Passover is - a commemoration of the Israelites rescue from slavery celebrated with unleavened bread. Perhaps in the miracle story of the 5000 - the emphasis can be Jesus’ blessing and braking the bread as a foreshadowing of the Last Supper’s Eucharistic prayer.
One might wonder what it is that draws people toward Jesus, but they should realize it is his healing power that persuades the people to follow him - after changing the lives of so many. They want to be healed and they want their loved ones healed but there is something else about this Jesus of Nazareth that is changing people’s lives and that is his ability to speak the truth when he shares the word of God with them. It is also his promise of eternal salvation to those who are faithful to the Gospel that draws them to him - in spite of the many challenges they have to face in this world. In today’s Gospel however, Jesus sees another need that has to be addressed - when he sees a large crowd following him. He needs to feed them.
Jesus asks his apostles what they might do to feed all these people, to which Philip responds that it would take two hundred days wages to meet the needs of so many. Then Andrew steps in presenting a small boy with five loaves and two fish, but he too has his doubts as he wonders what good are these for so many. Jesus then tells the Apostles to have them recline on the grassy plain and watch God’s mighty hand. Notice that Jesus doesn’t just multiply the loaves, but he introjects what will soon be known as part of the Eucharistic prayer. He first gives thanks to his almighty Father - as he takes the loaves and blesses them and - distributes them.
Jesus emphasizes our need to always be thankful to our father in heaven before asking him for the extraordinary to happen and then the extraordinary will happen.
This past weekend rain was forecast for Friday evening and all day Saturday. At the wedding rehearsal of a young couple the bride told me how grateful she was to God for her wedding day but that she had made a nine-day novena so it didn’t rain Saturday. I told her that was great - as I’m looking at the weather report predicting rain all day. That Saturday morning, we had a down pour until about nine am and then the rain seemed to taper off and I though gee - just a few gray skies wouldn’t be bad - but that isn’t what she asked for and by noon the Sun came out and the clouds dissipated and we had blue skies the rest of the day and I thought - wow that’s some novena - I remember mentioning at the homily - because she put her faith in God, he rewarded her and that he will always be with them - as long as they put their faith in him
We always need to be thankful to our father in heaven before asking him for the extraordinary. The people - saw the miracle of the loaves and 12 baskets left over. Which brings about the conflict Jesus has to address the following day
The next day many people came to the place where they had eaten the loaves and seeing Jesus was no longer there, went in search of him and when they find him, they ask him why he left. Jesus responds. You’re not looking for me because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Jesus knew they were looking for a free meal - so He says to them. Do not work for food the perishes - but for food the endures for eternal life - which the Son of Man will give you. They then asked him - what they needed to do - to accomplish the works of God. Jesus replies: This is the work of God - that you believe in the one he sent. They then ask for a sign so they will be able to believe that - He is the one who he sent. They then told Jesus
Our ancestors ate manna in the dessert, as it is written: “He gave them bread from heaven to eat” Jesus said to them: “Amen, Amen I say to you it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven. It is my Father who gives you true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They then said to him, Sir give us this bread always. Jesus said: I am the bread of life - whoever comes to me will never hunger - whoever believes in me will never thirst.
Jesus couldn’t tell them this right away - until he had taken care of their physical needs. Missionaries know that before anyone is going to hear what they have to say, they must take care of the people’s immediate needs. When Jesus saw a vast number of people were hungry, he knew he had to satisfy their physical hunger before he could address an even greater hunger - their hunger for God
So how do the loaves and fishes story pertain to us? Perhaps we need to examine the ways we are seeking to be satisfied - We may find that after what we believe were supposed to be moments of fulfillment - we are still feeling empty -
You and I need to always be searching for the truth. You and I always need to keep our hearts and minds open to the word of God and to always allow him to enter into our hearts and transform us. We need to come to know the abundance of God mercy and love can never be out done. Just as he had given to the people of today’s Gospel an overabundance of food - God can never be out done. You and I however need to be a people who are living in the way God calls us to live. St Paul in his letter to the Ephesians tells us how to live stating: Brothers and sisters I, a prisoner for the lord urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received with all humility and gentleness and patience - bearing with one another - through love striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace as one body one spirit as you were called to the - one hope of the call of - one lord - one faith- one baptism one God and Father of all - who is over all and through all and in all.
God wants to feed you not with the bread of Moses but with the bread of eternal life. Receive him with all your heart - and all your mind - and all your soul. let him enter your life – and you will never be the same. that's the real - miracle story