Audio homily below:
The next five Sundays at Mass we’ll read from the 6th chapter of St. John’s gospel, which centers around the miracle of the loaves and the fish. All four gospels recall this miracle of Jesus; Mark and Matthew recall it twice. It’s one of Jesus’ most important miracles. It’s a miracle that will define him more than others miracles do.
John’s gospel expands on the miracle more than the other gospels. John’s gospel likes to point out signs. This miracle as an important
sign of Jesus’ mission in this world. He’s “the Bread of Life,” who answers the hunger that’s in our world.
John’s gospel notes the time and place the miracle occurs. It’s the time of Passover, on a mountain near the Sea of Galilee. When we hear it’s the Feast of Passover, we know that was when God led the Israelites out of Egypt. It was a mighty action of God. Now God will do a further act of saving his people through Jesus, his Son.
Jesus goes up a mountain. That’s an important detail too: Moses spoke to the people from a mountain on the desert journey. Now we’ll hear a greater voice from the mountain by the Sea of Galilee.
Look at the picture we have in John’s gospel: Jesus on the mountain sees a multitude of people coming toward him. In the other gospel accounts of this miracle, the disciples notice the crowds coming and nervously tells Jesus to send them away. In John’s gospel, though, Jesus sees the crowds approaching and, as if to remind his disciples of the inability of human resources to deal with them, he asks his disciple Philip, “Where could we buy enough food for them to eat?” Of course, there are no places to buy food and even if there were they wouldn’t have enough money. There are only 5 loaves and two fish.
Then, look how the miracle takes place in John’s gospel. Jesus doesn’t have the people line up, as if in a breadline for a piece of bread to tide them over on their way home. No, he settles them all on the green grass as if he were seating them at a banquet table. Then, taking the loaves and giving thanks, “he distributed them to those who were reclining , and also as much of the fish as they wanted.”
And it’s not only enough for them to eat; there’s a lot left over, which they collect in baskets. “More than they could eat.”
What does the miracle say to us? Let’s go back to the beginning. Jesus seeing the crowd is God seeing us all, the whole human family in fact. He sees the hunger of the crowd that can’t be met by human resources alone. The miracle isn’t an answer to a temporary crisis; it’s a sign that points to something deeper, something lasting. God will be with us on our human journey. God will always be with us; God will give us what we need, and even more than we expect.
You see the promise we have in this miracle. It’s not something done long ago and then over. It’s a sign that goes on and on.
This miracle says there’s a hunger in human beings that only God can satisfy. We may hardly be aware of it; just as the crowds who came to Jesus that day may not have been aware of it. But he was.
It’s not just a hunger for food either; it’s a hunger for wisdom and knowledge that only God can give. “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”( Augustine) There’s something unsatisfied, something restless in us that can only be met by God. Our human hunger wont be satisfied by money, by success, by popularity, by things, by a healthy, perfect body. We can have all of these, but the question rises, “What then?” “What then?”
The miracle of the loaves and fish also points to the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, that beautiful sign so small and insignificant. Yet we sat it’s a banquet, God’s banquet. It’s the place where Jesus looks at us and see our hunger and offers food. He is our Bread of Life.