Reflection for OS18, Sunday August 2nd, 2020
Gospel Reading, Matthew 14.13-21. The miracle of the loaves and fishes.
The traditional place where Jesus fed the 5000 is an attractive bay on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. There is a convent nearby and the nuns manage the site. There is an altar and a worship area on the very edge of the lake and looking across the lake to the Golan Heights. I spent a year teaching in Israel and grew to appreciate the beauty of the Galilee. The area reminds one of NZ. I believe that Jesus deliberately chose places of beauty to teach. The gospel contains a beautiful message and this is reflected in the places where Jesus taught the disciples and the crowds. On this occasion Jesus commands the people to recline on the grass and the scene is set attractively for what must have been an extraordinary experience.
The feeding of the 5000 is a compassion story. Jesus returns from a time of prayer and mourning for John the Baptist whose death has been told by Matthew in the preceding verses. Jesus finds a crowd and apparently they have with them their sick and Jesus heals them all. He is ‘moved with compassion’ and it is almost as if Jesus couldn’t help himself; in the face of human suffering He must act.
Jesus does not care only for the sick. His care extends to all. The disciples too show practical concern in pointing out the need for the crowds to disperse to the neighbouring villages and buy food. But Jesus has a different idea. He tells the disciples to bring the small amount of food available. He commands the people to recline on the grass and the disciples distribute the food. There are 12 baskets full of scraps. God is generous and bountiful. There is no need to ask how Jesus worked the miracle. That remains a mystery. We are rather to ask what the miracle teaches us.
The miracle foreshadows the Eucharist. Jesus blesses the bread and breaks it and the disciples distribute it. By a miracle all are fed. The Eucharist too is a miracle. It is the means by which Christ shares His life with us. As at the feeding of the 5000, so Christ is really present in the Eucharist, and we too are fed. The Eucharist recalls the life and death of Jesus, and He is a living presence in the Eucharist just as He is in the miracle of the feeding of the 5000.
The Eucharist is based around the four actions of taking, blessing, breaking and sharing. The same four actions form the basis of the feeding story.
Reverend Dr Calum Gilmour