Sunday, August 3, 2014

5,000 Fed and a Covenant Renewed (a Gospel Reflection)

This week in the Gospel we hear the familiar story of how Jesus miraculously fed five thousand men (plus women and children) by multiplying the meager amount of bread and fish his disciples managed to gather.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven,he said the blessing, broke the loaves,and gave them to the disciples,who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied,and they picked up the fragments left over—twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men,not counting women and children. (Matt 14)

Jesus the Bread of Life

We might ask ourselves, what is Jesus doing here? Is He on a humanitarian mission to feed the hungry? While that certainly is a part of it, we have to pause when we consider all the other hungry people in the world Jesus didn't feed. He must have had some greater reason, some important teaching, to convey by choosing this moment to feed these people.

The answer to this question is to be found in the first reading from Isaiah,
Heed me, and you shall eat well,you shall delight in rich fare.Come to me heedfully,listen, that you may have life.I will renew with you the everlasting covenant,the benefits assured to David.
Jesus, then, isn't just feeding hungry people in an act of humanitarian good will, like a first century social worker, but is showing forth the Kingdom by renewing the everlasting covenant between God and man. It is this covenant, more even than the food, which gives us life.

We see that the crowd in Jesus' day understood this reality by looking at the parallel passage in John 6
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet,  the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone. (14-15)
The crowd recognized what many today fail to see, but what the Church lays before us by linking this reading to the passage in Isaiah, that feeding the multitude was more than charity, it was a manifestation of the Kingdom of God.

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