But his plan for quiet will not come about as the crowd seeks him out. Instead he spends the time curing the illnesses of the people because “his heart was moved with pity”. As the day wore on the disciples approached and suggested that he send the crowd away so they can eat. But instead of agreeing to their thoughtful request, he tells the disciples to give the people their food to eat.
How? They came up with five loaves of bread and two fish. This would clearly not be enough to feed this crowd. Still, Jesus had the people sit on the grass before him and he took the loaves “said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples” who in turn gave them to the more than five thousand folks. And “they all ate and were satisfied.” Afterwards the disciples gathered twelve wicker baskets of leftovers.
Interestingly this is the only miracle of Jesus that is recorded in all four gospels. And as we hear Matthew’s account of the event, we recognize the actions and the words as anticipating our Eucharist. Each day reminds us of this miracle as we receive the “blessed and broken” bread. Each day the miracle of the multiplied bread and Jesus comes to us as our companion and guide. We are fed and nourished by the miraculous gift of bread.
The disciples saw the problem that day and brought it with care to Jesus. They had so little, but they offered what they had to their master. These companions of Jesus seemed to be learning from the generosity he was showing them as they took the initiative to remind him of the impending need for food. And Jesus, on his part, took the little they had and multiplied it for the benefit of the people.
The story reminds us how little we seem to have most of the time. How inadequate seem our efforts in the face of the monumental issues confronting us and our world: the enormity of the evil our world faces in the mean-heartedness, the violence, the wars, and the rumors of war that make up the days and the lives of us and our contemporaries; in a word all the inhumane ways that we slash and burn our sisters and brothers and our world. What can be done? We have so little, it seems, in front of it all.
But the truth is that we are not alone. The Risen Jesus continues to be with us and to take the little we have and multiply it for the benefit of others. And that presence of the master makes all the difference in the world. Can we, like the disciples in the gospel today, see it and understand it? Are we willing, like them, to offer the smallness of what we have so that it can be transformed by Jesus?
Be with us, Lord. Help us to see beyond our littleness to the vastness that is you and to be part of the process of your multiplication of our small gifts for the nourishment of others. Thank you for your gifts and inspire us to serve your needy people.
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