In our Scriptures for this Sunday, we hear a very familiar Gospel story: the feeding of the 5,000. Even 2,000 years later and after hearing it in some cases hundreds of times in our own lives, it’s a beautiful reminder to us of the way in which Jesus desires to take care of us.
We would be right to sense strong Eucharistic undertones in this miracle, especially as it stands at the head of the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, which most of have become familiar with on account of it containing Jesus’ renowned Bread of Life discourse. Over the next several Sundays, we will have the opportunity to hear again from this critical instruction of our Lord; to hear Jesus’ insistence that His flesh will be [is] bread for the life of the world, that it is through consuming His life-giving Body and Blood that we gain access to all the treasures of divine life (assuming, of course, that we receive it well and not haphazardly or unworthily…for which, thanks be to God!, confession has the power to reopen any door that we have previously closed to the vast stores of God’s abundant grace and mercy! Believe me—I’m a recurring recovering sinner!).
We hear strong Eucharistic overtones because, in fact, this miracle “sets the stage” for all that Jesus will begin to teach His disciples about the Bread of Life; it interprets for us all that Jesus will come to say again to us in the next few Sundays. And while it has much to say about God and about the Eucharist, it also has profound implications for how we understand His providence and grace.
We learn from this episode just how much Jesus desires to take care of His own. Looking up and seeing the multitudes that have followed Him to this deserted place, Jesus desires (He WANTS!) to provide for them. Not just on a spiritual level (which is obviously important), but on the level of their basic human needs. Christ sees us in our poverty—whatever that poverty looks like—and He longs to “feed” us there. That in and of itself is mind-blowingly profound.
The other thing that strikes me is what Jesus is able to do with so little. The tiniest offering (just two fish and a few loaves) made in trust to His providing hand is rendered into enough. So little fed so, so many. So too with what is our own: we surrender our littleness, what seems paltry and wildly insufficient in our own estimation, in trust to the Author of all that is, and He makes of it enough for what is called for, enough for what is asked of us, enough to satiate our own desires and the needs or wants of the crowds.
But of course, it’s more than just enough. It’s superabundant. The meal that Jesus set out was more than even the vast numbers that followed Him could take in. Because that is the nature of our God. He provides, in our littleness, so much more than we could ever ask or imagine. It’s incomprehensible how much God pours His grace out upon us, just as it must have been unthinkable for the disciples as they watched the baskets fill up with fragments.
All of this is contained for us in a most privileged way in the Eucharist, the Flesh and Blood of Jesus given for the life of the world. It’s offered to us literally every day in the greatest treasure of the Church—enough, and so much more.
Keep spreading joy!