The “Feeding of the Five Thousand” and a similar gospel story (where 4,000 are fed) have always been among my favorites.
Fun fact: today’s gospel is the only miracle, other than the resurrection to be recounted in all four gospels. Take a minute to read the entire passage on page 184. There will be a test.
Reading this story made me think about the Church. To be more precise and honest, it has led me down rabbit hole of blog posts and articles. These range from constructive criticism to hate-fueled attacks. When I finally pulled myself up and out, I realized my first thought may have been best.
Today’s gospel is a major reason why I remain in the church.*
What do you remember about today’s gospel? How many loaves and fishes? Who prompts Jesus to feed the people? Why? Why am I being asked these questions? Here are my answers:
1. I sometimes “remember” things that are not part of the story. For example: In today’s gospel Jesus does not obtain the loaves and fishes from a little boy. That is part of John’s account. John 6:9
2. Five loaves and two fish. The fact that the loaves are made from barley also come from John’s account.
3. Who: The Disciples. Why: because “the day was drawing to a close”.
4. I ask these questions because critical pieces of information to understanding and applying the gospels are often hidden in plain sight.
One such piece of information inspires me and compels me to stay in a flawed and broken church.
It comes at the beginning of today’s gospel and can easily be taken for granted. Here it is: “Jesus spoke to the crowd about the kingdom of God”.
Among the crowd are the disciples. These men have been so moved by Jesus, they have left everything to follow Him. The disciples have had front row seats to Jesus’ miracles. Not just “meet and greet” tickets – the disciples have Full-Access Passes. I can picture them moving through the crowd. A murmur arises followed by Peter’s voice, “It’s OK, Andrew and James are with the band”.
OK, I’ll get back on point.
It’s been a great day of preaching and healing the sick. What happens next? More specifically, what do the disciples say to Jesus? Jesus, it is late and the people are getting hungry. Come on Jesus, we’ve got nothing left. Let’s pack it in.
It’s just then that Jesus tells them something very important about the kingdom of God. No, Jesus shows them. No!!!! Jesus proves to them…. Your (our) human shortcomings do not place limits on the abundant goodness of God’s Kingdom.
Wow! There it is.
I suspect I’ll be writing more about this in coming weeks, but let me offer one more thought for you to consider. You and I are all the people in today’s story. We are Jesus’ disciples. We are the people in the crowd. We are Christ’s voice, hands and feet called to proclaiming the Kingdom, heal the sick and feed the hungry. I selected today’s gathering/processional hymn (“In This Place” #308) with this in mind.
Blest to be in ministry in this wonderful piece of God’s Church,
Here is an older but excellent video from Bishop Robert Barron titled "Why Catholics are Leaving the Church".
Click here for an older but still excellent video by Bishop Robert Barron on "Why Catholics Are Leaving the Church."
Over the past month our social concerns ministry has planted flags on the church lawn, hosted hospitality hours after mass and cooked and served at the Nutley/Belleville Care Kitchen. Join us. Send me an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t wait. Do it now. J
* It is also why being “spiritual” or “worshiping in my own way” is not enough for me, but that’s a topic for another time.