Today’s readings include this narrative of a false prophet, the Responsorial Psalm celebrating the “statutes” of the Lord, and then a familiar tale, often called in our time “the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.” Why this combination?
The first two selections emphasize that God is God – not us, not our favorite preachers or news analysts or talk-show hosts. Whether self-deluded or an actual con man, Hananiah told the priests and people what they wanted to hear. But God punished his arrogance and false prophecy, reminding us that only God is God. In our own time, about how to interpret the commandments to love God and to love neighbor, perhaps we are hearing only what we want to hear. So today our Psalm is “Lord, teach me your statutes” – let me actually listen to what God wants me to hear.
And what do I hear in this Gospel? The story of Jesus feeding the
multitude must be important: it’s in all four Gospels, with
only little variations. It’s even prefigured by at least one
somewhat similar story, when Elisha fed a hundred people with twenty
loaves in the second Book of Kings (we heard that passage on a recent
Sunday.) Here in today’s reading from Matthew and also in
Luke the disciples have five loaves and two fish for 5000 men –
plus women and children, an interesting note. . . In Mark it’s
seven loaves, no fish, 4000 people, and in John we have more details:
Andrew has found a boy who has the five loaves, two fish, for the
5000. I have entertained the suggestion (I first read this as a
teenager in a popular historical novel by Thomas B. Costain) that
Jesus’s teaching simply inspired people to share whatever
food they had brought for themselves. Today I don’t think
we can give a simple natural explanation to the feeding of so many,
with the twelve baskets of leftovers in all four Gospel versions.
In John’s Gospel, Philip and Andrew are already counting the
crowd and scouting for provisions; if every man there, or anyway
many men had brought food, the disciples would already know it.
Then, maybe because I’m writing this on a hot summer day, I notice that the crowd under that Mediterranean sun apparently has enough water, perhaps springs or streams in the “deserted place” suddenly filled by a multitude. Jesus provides what they do need, food, both real and symbolic. His actions are about the same in all four Gospels: in today’s reading from Matthew, “he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples who in turn gave them to the crowds.” Of course we see the pattern in what he did at his Last Supper, and in every Mass, every day, all around the world.
My prayer today: may this well-known “miracle of the loaves and fishes” teach me what God wants me to learn. When I think I’m too little to do anything for the needy and suffering people of the world, I might think about how Jesus took up Little and Did Much. Let God be God, in all his Providence for us.
Our Father, Who art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name…. Give us today our daily bread…. whatever we need to do Your Will. And if, and only if it is also Your Will for us, give us the fish, or whatever we desire and enjoy today, out of your generous abundance, out of your abundant, enormous, miraculous Love.
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook