Dear One and All,
Following His Baptism, while Jesus was being tempted in the desert, He responded to the devil by saying ’Not on bread alone do people live, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ (Luke 4:4.) Today’s reading which is about the Miracle of the loaves and fishes, demonstrates the prior need for ‘inner spiritual nourishment’ which we receive from the all powerful Word of God. There is also an echo here in the Manna from Heaven in the wilderness experience of our ancestors in faith. It does us well to keep this in mind, because even in Israel’s wondering in the desert; in circles…might I add, or in their lostness….or sin; the Lord God fed them…..the Lord God’s hospitality is legend! Let’s keep in mind that in their hunger, they came to know that their God was a God of never ending compassion and bounty, which is a demonstration of mercy. Just as the Lord God had heard the cry of their plight in Egypt, the Lord God heard their grumbling in the Desert. Notice that the faces in this instance have changed, but the message remains the same…..for all ages and seasons….Our God is a God of unconditional love. Let’s now move on.
We use the word ‘hunger’ to mean quite different things! For instance, one of the greatest hungers on earth is our need to be loved and to belong. On the other hand, in their eagerness to hear the Words of Jesus, the people in today’s Gospel don’t seem to be giving any thought at all to their physical hunger, and at that point, food hadn’t even been mentioned. It came from the Twelve! However, notice how the Gospel writer and his community saw in this action real Catechesis? Jesus says, “Give them something to eat yourselves”….what did they have? “Five Loaves of bread and two fish”! If we just take this literally, we are missing the point, according to the Early Christian Community. The early Church saw in this quasi sacramental action, that Israel had the first five Books of the Bible….Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy; the Covenant with Abraham and the Covenant with Moses……the five books were seen as Bread, as Food which gave the people of Israel …Life! It was also the photographic album of the snap shots of the story of the Lord God getting to know them, and they getting to know and understand that they were a covenanted people. Now in the telling of this Miracle story there are distinct Liturgical echoes…. Let’s have a look: “Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven, and said the blessing over them; then he broke them and handed them to his disciples” to distribute among the seated crowd. And that is not all…..they ate as much as they wanted……Jesus, the Word made flesh freely and generously offer us the bread of life so that we may have life to the full! We must not let the last sentence of the story go without our attention. Look how many baskets of scraps were left over? Twelve! The miracle at hand, the healing which was happening and will continue to happen, is that from ingesting God’s Word…..as food, and the Eucharist as life giving, the new Israel – the Church is born……it’s us!
Let’s have a look at what we say in response to This is the Lamb of God……’Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.’……The Body of Christ. AMEN…..(so may it be)
Let’s just have a brief look at ongoing healing by Jesus; there seems to be a direct connection between Jesus’ words and His acts of healing; they always seem to go together. Remember the Roman Centurion who came to Jesus about his servant who was dying? He simply said, ‘Say but the word, and my servant will be healed’. God’s word is a healing word, and to listen to His word with an open heart is to be open to being healed in ways God knows best. On the other hand, we often tend to put our own words onto the Lord’s lips; we tell Him (through honest faith) what we need Him to heal in us, when perhaps our prayer ought to be, ‘Not my will, but yours be done’. Or as we see in the Book of Samuel, that famous phrase…..’Speak Lord, your servant is listening’…for us it is often…’Listen Lord, your servant is speaking….’
Our God has a panoramic view of our lives, and of those around us. Our prayer of openness to God, coupled with a desire to LISTEN not only with our ears, but with our whole being, enables us to see more clearly the subtle miracles of healing in others, and in ourselves day by day. How can this happen? If we can consciously turn the volume down, and put aside our personal expectations, we will then be in a much better frame of mind to hear and to fine tune into God’s all powerful word within the sounds of silence!
So … back to the Gospel. The people had very little food to share – and we may not have much to offer either – but what little we do have will be enough! However much as we have, we can generously put at Our Lord’s disposal … our faith, our love, our compassion and our forgiveness will naturally set the scene for healing to happen. ‘Here I am Lord; I come to seek your will and your face’.
Finally, instead of being so concerned about nutrition and a balanced diet – that is, what will nourish our bodies – perhaps we might focus more on what will be nourishing for our inner selves. We might like to reflect on and pray Paul’s Prayer in his letter to the Ephesians 3: 14-21.
This then is what I pray, kneeling before the Father, from whom every family, whether spiritual natural takes its name:
Out of his infinite glory, may he give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God.
Glory be to him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask of imagine; glory be to him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. AMEN.
May God bless you and your families, and may we never forget each other in prayer.