August 2, 2020

Readings: First Reading: Isaiah 55: 1 – 3; Second Reading, Romans:8: 35, 37 – 39; Gospel: Matthew 14: 13 – 21     

Our first reading for this weekend is taken from the fifty-fifth chapter of the book of the prophet Isaiah. The “second” section of Isaiah dates from around the time of the return of Israel from captivity in Babylon, and hence it is filled with the language of hope and salvation. And this passage that we read today, which reminds us of the foundational scriptural principle of the primacy of grace, is one of the most magnificent.

In this remarkable passage, Jesus hears bad news.  John the Baptist has been murdered.  Jesus reaction to a pointless act of violence is important.  Firstly, he withdraws.  Like John the Baptist Jesus recognized the hunger of people longing for a visionary, someone to show them the way.  In the shadow of grief for John, we hear of Jesus’ compassion for a crowd who lost  and leaderless.  Jesus moves through grief to compassion.

Suffering and loss can lead us not just into the pain itself, but beyond  it into greater love.  When we witness the suffering of others it can lead us to a deeper conviction that we will love harder, endure harder campaign harder.  There is something about an encounter with the suffering of others that can lead people to a stronger resolve for goodness.  In tragedy we recognize our shared humanity.  Compassion is close behind the grieving, ready to begin the slow process of healing. 

The principle of the primacy of grace.  Grace comes first, the bible presents a religion of grace, gratia, free gift.  The free gift of God’s love.

In this gospel we can see how God takes care of his people. We can read the feeding in two ways. On the one hand, we can simply take it as a miraculous event, pointing to the divine origins of Jesus. On the other hand, we can see that once the disciples began to share the little food they had with those around, it triggered a similar movement among the crowd, many of whom had actually brought some food with them. When everyone shared, everyone had enough. A picture of the kind of society the Church should stand for.

We human beings, however poor we are, can be instruments of a miracle.  Jesus will work wonders, provided we bring Him what we have;  He will work wonders through us if we let Him do it by our self-surrender, by offering our talents and gifts to Him.  

The five loaves and two fish could have remained the same if the disciples were not willing to give them to Jesus.  Therefore, none of us should think we have nothing to offer.  Alone we can do nothing, but we and Jesus can do much.  Place what you have in the hands of Jesus; He will accept your poverty, bless and multiply, and give it to you to distribute just as He did with the apostles.  Is that not good news for you?  

As Jesus changes the Eucharistic bread, so He also transforms us into Eucharistic people.  The meal of Jesus is always open.  The twelve baskets of fragments collected by the disciples indicate that this miraculous nourishment provided by Jesus is still available for those who seek it.  As long as there are people looking for the gifts Jesus offers, this nourishment can never be totally consumed.  But the story also tells us that “Jesus wants disciples who are prepared to distribute His gifts. 

Where in my life are there opportunities to “share my food” so others will have enough?

This is the only miracle that is reported by all the four gospels, because the link to the Eucharist is obvious. The verbs used at the end of this miracle to describe what Jesus did with the bread are repeated at every mass. The Eucharist has the same characteristics of this miracle: the community, the transformation of humble elements into what satisfies us and is a sign of God’s abundant gifts. Yet the gift is immeasurably greater: it is the body and blood of Christ. I stand in awe of this great gift, and ask for the grace to be grateful and to enter more deeply into this great mystery.

This great miracle took place at the most unlikely moment: at the end of the day, when it was time to return home, when the disciples realised they had only five loaves and two fishes. Yet Jesus asked his disciples and his hearers to trust him, to “sit down” on the grass as if they were not in any hurry. Those who trusted got more than they needed. I look back on some moments when I too experienced God’s generosity in my life, and I ask to know how to “sit down” in trust in the moment of crisis.

This is a marvellous scene and we should pay close attention to the persons, what they say and what they do. How do we imagine the crowd reacted? What impact did this incident make on their lives? Do you think their participation in this event changed them?

Reflect and pray about the fact that this wonder is a sign of a greater wonder of the Eucharistic meal in which he gives us himself.

God Bless you.  Have a wonderful day.