Friday, April 24, 2009

One Does Not Live On Bread Alone!

There are four versions of the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, one in each of the gospels. Each narrative has a somewhat different perspective on the event than do the other three. In John’s version, which we read today, Jesus is not concerned about how he will feed the crowd who had followed him from the shores of the Lake to the top of the hill, because the theme of John’s gospel is the signs Jesus performs, and the feeding a crowd of five thousand with five pita breads and a couple of fish is one of the gospel’s great signs of Jesus’ divine power. But the disciples were clearly concerned, worried about what the crowd might do if they were turned away hungry.

There are some scripture scholars who focus on the detail that the people were reclining to eat, a posture usually reserved for privileged people in those times. On the other hand, what better position is there to share a picnic spread than stretching out on the grass?

I would like to share a few lessons drawn from one of the sources I consulted before composing this reflection. The focus is on the twelve wicker baskets, each holding about a bushel of leftover fragments. Here are a few thoughts on the meaning of this miracle, this “sign and wonder”:

• Live in the confidence that Jesus will provide the bread of life for his disciples, not only in the Good News and in the Eucharist, but at the kitchen table – and even at the holiday feasts.

• On the other hand, don’t be wasteful of food or other natural resources.

• Trust in the goodness and generosity of others; be generous if you have the wherewithal, and be grateful for other people’s willingness to share when times are tough.

When people saw the sign that Jesus had performed, they had an insight into who he truly is. “This must be the prophet, who is to come into the world! Jesus knew that they were going to try and carry him off to make him their king. So he went back up the mountain, all by himself. The narrative of the multiplication of loaves is in chapter six of John’s gospel. The time had not yet come for him to climb another mountain, this one in Jerusalem, and be identified is “Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews”. But his throne was not of gold encrusted marble, but of wood stained with the blood flowing from his hands and feet. His crown was not one of jewel encrusted gold, but of woven branches of a thorn bush. Yet, all of what He does and says is an example for us.

Let us conclude with the prayer of the man on his right, at Calvary: “Remember me, Lord, when you come into your kingdom.”

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