Multiplication of the Loaves
YEAR I: A century ago, two men were on a train in France. The older man was reading the Bible story of the multiplication of the loaves, today’s gospel. Noticing this, the younger man said, “Pardon me, sir, but do you really believe what you’re reading?”
“Yes,” said the older man, “don’t you believe it?” “No,” said the younger man. “I’m a scientist and that story goes against all scientific laws.”
At this point the train slowed down. “This is my station,” said the young man. “Nice talking to you, Mr…” “Pasteur,” said the old man, “Louis Pasteur.” He was one of the world’s greatest scientists.
Today’s gospel tells us about Jesus feeding the five thousand men through fives loaves and two fish only. I’m sure many of us will ask in what way our Lord multiplies the five loaves of bread and the two fish so that He can feed these 5,000 men excluding women and children. But the focus of our reflection is not on how Jesus multiplies the five loaves and two fish. The focus should be on why Jesus does so. Jesus feeds the five thousand men with five loaves and two fish because:
First, the people are hungry for God’s word. Today’s gospel says to us that a great number of people gather together to hear Jesus because they are hungry for God’s word of life that can nourish them spiritually. They enjoy His presence and listen patiently and intensely to His words. But at the end, they still feel the pangs of hunger as any human beings do. And Jesus sees this hunger.
And so let us come to the second hunger, it is a hunger for material food. Food is our basic commodity. It is because all of us eat and cannot exist without eating. This is the reason why His disciples want them to be sent away at the end of the day because they do not have the resources to feed them and even complain how much money they would spend to feed that big crowd. But Jesus takes the little they have which are five loaves and two fish. He thanks God and distributes to all until their hunger are satisfied.
Actually as you see it, this multiplication of the loaves is not a magic but a multiplication of generous people. It is because Jesus wants us to participate and get involved by giving what we can, according to our own capacity and He will do the rest. In this sense, miracles do happen when we are willing to share and get involved. And Jesus sees through the people’s hearts that they are generous. This is started by the generosity of the boy. He blesses the boy’s offering and distributes them to the people. The crowd see what Jesus does and they are inspired to do the same. They take their provisions which they normally do especially during long trips and share with one another until everyone are satisfied.
But they missed the purpose of Jesus’ miracle which pointed towards another reality that would satisfy not only their physical hunger but their hunger for God as well especially hunger for the Bread of life, that is, Christ’s Body. The Books of Deuteronomy (8:3) and Wisdom (16) explain to us that the true nourishment comes from every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
But also what is more important is that in our inadequacy let us put our lives in the hands of God. He accepts and blesses us beyond our greatest expectations.