A CALL TO PRACTISE WORKS OF MERCY
The Gospel of today narrates the event of the miracle of the of the loaves and fish. We learn about Jesus feeding the hungry crowd by multiplying five loaves and two fish. He did this because he was concerned for the people who had stayed with him and listened to him. Initially, when his disciples advised him to send the people away, he challenged them to feed the crowd themselves. However, when they admitted that they were powerless, he taught and empowered them by example. This is significant because Jesus always practised what he preached and he never asked others to do what he was unwilling to do himself. He satisfied the crowd’s physical hunger and, in doing so, he enhanced the authority of what he had already said to them. Jesus had enough for everybody and still some remaining.
Interestingly, the multiplication of the loaves and fish is Jesus’ only public miracle that is recorded in each of the four gospels, thus stressing its importance for the Christian community. The love and generosity of Jesus in tending to the needs of the hungry crowd offer us an insight into his own total self-giving for others at the Last Supper and in his suffering and death. Jesus’ miracle of the loaves and fish, which responded to the physical hunger of the crowd, foreshadowed his miracle at the Last Supper when he shared himself in the Eucharist — the Bread of Life — with his disciples, thereby satisfying their spiritual hunger. The lesson of the miracle of the loaves and fish is obvious: by portraying Jesus as doing what God did for the Israelites in the desert, by giving them manna, the evangelist is forging an identity between Jesus and God. Jesus, who responded to and reached out to people in their need, wants his followers to do the same. The question for all of us is: In what ways do we share ourselves, our gifts and our time with other people when they are needy? We are challenged to appreciate one another just as Jesus appreciated the crowd that had gathered to listen to him. It can be extremely difficult to put other people’s needs before our own. However, that is what we are called to do as Christian disciples. In the miracle of the loaves and fish, Jesus relied on his Father’s help as he responded to a crisis. Likewise, we, Jesus’ disciples, need to rely on his help as we respond to crises and needs.