Have you ever wanted to be part of something bigger? Even the most independent among us likes to make changes and have an impact on others. In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jesus demonstrates one of his most iconic miracles – the multiplication of the loaves. It is a sign of the institution of the Eucharist, when we are fed not by bread but by the Body of Christ.
In the stories of ancient pagan gods, mighty deeds were done entirely under the gods’ own power. Mortals may have offered sacrifices to start the chain of events, but they played little role in the miraculous works themselves. Jesus is entirely different. The multiplication of the loaves is a prime example not only of Jesus’ power over nature, but of the way he equips his disciples.
First, Jesus asks Philip a question “to test him.” Jesus has seen the crowds and “he himself knew what he was going to do,” but he wants his disciples to start thinking about the problem and its solution. Andrew offers a suggestion, though he isn’t confident in it. “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus honors Andrew’s suggestion, takes the offered loaves, and delegates the Apostles to bring order to the crowd. When the crowd has been fed, the Apostles “gather the fragments left over.” In the process, they discover with wonder that bread has been produced in super abundance.
In the sacraments, God works through simple matter to make grace real in our lives. He works in and through us as well. Are you facing problems that could have spiritual solutions? Is there a need in your parish or community that you could meet? Whatever our hesitancies, Jesus honors our simple loaves and fishes. He invites us to participate in his generous work of redemption, just as we are.
Reflection from Liturgical Publications Inc