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Home : Faith/Spirituality : Columns
7/25/2012 9:19:00 AM
We Give Him Bread and He Gives Us Himself

Mary Jo Tully
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland

July 29, 2012
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 Kings 4:42-44
Ephesians 4:1-6
John 6:1-15

Aside from the Resurrection of our Lord, the feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle found in all four of the Gospels. John’s Gospel is a theology filled with signs and nuances. Each line is worthy of reflection. Imagine the excited anticipation that must have filled the air. Perhaps a hush fell over the crowd. Surely, they were not expecting to be fed. They had come to witness healings and to listen to preaching. They were willing to be hungry.

In John’s version, Jesus notices that the crowd needs to be fed. The disciples, it seems, are afraid of the task. It seems impossible to them but Jesus presses on and Andrew tells them that a young boy has five loaves and two fish—clearly not enough. Still, he was not going to allow the disciples to walk away from the need.

The five loaves and two fish were all the crowd could contribute but Jesus accepted this small effort and used it. He took the few loaves of bread and gave thanks. It didn’t seem important to the crowd that Jesus would give thanks because they were familiar with the blessing over the bread but Jesus was teaching us something important and John is calling it to our attention.

Remember, the miracle has not yet happened and Jesus is giving thanks for the five loaves and two fish. Jesus is telling his followers (and all of us) something important about acknowledging what God has already given them. As if to underline the importance of this thanksgiving, in chapter 10, it says:  “Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.” If we think about it, it is quite remarkable that the Gospel does not say, “the place where Jesus fed 5,000” or “the place where the Lord worked a miracle.” No, it is the place where the “Lord had given thanks.” Always and ever, God has given us whatever we have.

Again, it is only John who mentions “barley loaves” and makes a link to the story about Elisha. Barley loaves were the food of the poor. It was a meal that satisfied their hunger and met their needs.  In both cases, though, the food is more than enough. It reminds us that God does not simply give enough for those who are hungry.   Elisha began with twenty barley loaves and some grain given him by a man. Jesus took the five barley loaves and two fish of a young boy.

When God provides, there is plenty. The Book of Kings says, “…there was some left over” and the Gospel of John records Jesus’ instruction to gather the fragments. Whenever Jesus gave to the people, he gave more than enough for sustenance. He provided enough for celebration. This is the way that God provides life for all of us. He takes the gifts he has given us and lets us give them to others.

The theme is echoed in our Eucharistic celebration. God gives us wheat. We give him bread. He gives us the body of Christ. God gives us grapes. We give him wine. He gives us the blood of Christ.

Today we are called to reach out to those in need with the gifts God has given us.  

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