Our readings today are antithetical. The first reading is all about selfishness. Jeroboam is only thinking of himself and his position. He wants to retain the power, so he creates false idols and lures the people to worship him and his idols instead of God. He creates priests willy-nilly to give people a false sense of power and security. He is sinning and causing the people to sin. The psalm reiterates that the people forgot the God who saved them and worshipped false gods and idols instead. This selfishness was sin and he dragged others down with him.
In the Gospel, on the other hand, Jesus of course acts with compassion. This is the opposite of selfishness. When Jesus realizes the people have all traveled far and have run out of food, he is concerned for their well-being. He knows he cannot even send them home to eat because they do not have sufficient food for the trip home. What to do? There are a lot of people and not nearly enough food. I get that this is a real miracle, but it also reminds me of stone soup.
Individually, no one has sufficient food for the soup. In fact, there is nothing for the soup, only simmering stones. But when everyone adds a little something, a garnish, a bit of carrot, a potato, a drop of broth, together it ends up a flavorful meal, and enough to feed everyone. The Gospel says there were seven loaves of bread and a few fish. Not nearly enough to feed the huge crowd, but they broke the bread and portioned the fish, and everyone shared. And miraculously, there were seven baskets left over – more leftover than they started with. Isn’t it wonderful what can happen when people share? In this situation it would be very tempting to hold on. If I were there, I might think, I can’t share what little food I have, there’s not enough and I won’t have enough for my own needs. I’m sure everyone there was thinking along those lines. But they did all contribute to the ‘soup,’ and instead of no one being satisfied, everyone was. Instead of selfishly sinning, they selflessly shared, and ended up with a miracle.