Tag Archives: hunger

Hunger

Manna in the Desert

The next five Sundays we’ll read from the 6th chapter of St. John’s gospel, beginning this Sunday with the miracle of the loaves and the fish. All four gospels recall this miracle, Mark and Matthew report it twice. The miracle and Jesus’ words that follow it in John’s gospel are about the Holy Eucharist. Jesus, the Bread of Life, is the answer to our hunger.

The miracle takes place across the Sea of Galilee, in a “deserted place,’ as Matthew’s gospel describes it. There’s no place to buy food for a hungry crowd.

There’s only five barley loaves and two fish a small boy has. Barley loaves were the ordinary food for the poor.

Jesus initiates this miracle by pointing out to his disciples  a hunger in the crowd. They seem hardly aware of it and have no answer what to do, except to say “We don’t have enough!”  Taking what’s there, the five barley loaves and two fish, Jesus multiplies this food and feeds a multitude. John notes the Passover is near; it’s spring and green grass has grown up in this deserted place. Not only is it enough, but fragments are left over as the crowd has its fill.

Keep in mind the basic reality the miracle addresses: hunger. It’s bodily hunger, yes, but hunger of all kinds is addressed here. Like the disciples, we may be hardly aware of it. Humanity is hungry, this gospel says. Only God can fill its silent, hidden hunger, this miracle says. Only Jesus can.

Hunger

“I come among the peoples like a shadow,

I sit down by each man’s side,

None sees me,

but they look on one another and know that I am there

My silence is like the silence of the tide that buries the playground of children

Like the deepening of frost in the slow night, when birds are dead in the morning.

Armies travel, invade, destroy with guns roaring from earth and air.

I am more terrible than armies.

I am more feared than cannon, kings and chancellors

I give no command to any, but I am listened to more than kings

and more than passionate orators

I unswear words and undo deeds,

Naked things know me.

I am more the first and last to be felt of the living.

I am hunger. “

Lawrence Binyon

Loaves and Fish

Christ_feeding_the_multitude

The miracle of the loaves and the fish is one of the most important miracles in the New Testament. All four gospels recall it; Mark mentions it twice. The miracle, which  foreshadows the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, is about important aspects of the gospel message.

The miracle takes place as a crowd of people follow Jesus into a desert place and he blesses them with  nourishing bread and a meal of fish. According to the gospels, they’ve come from their homes, from different towns–some a distance away; they’ve made an effort to see him. Now they’re  tired and hungry.

Some may have come just from curiosity or because others brought them along, but Jesus doesn’t  multiply the bread and the fish to satisfy curiosity. People were hungry and needed food.

John says people came “because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.” So, probably some of them were sick or brought their sick with them.

Mark’s gospel says the miracle happened because, on seeing the crowd, Jesus’ heart went out to them. “He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and so be began teaching them many things.” (Mark 6,34)

“Sheep without a shepherd.” They’re looking for direction, for meaning in their lives, for a sense of who they are and what they’re about. And Jesus offers them a shepherd’s care and a teacher’s wisdom.

But they’re hungry. We shouldn’t  forget the first reason Jesus gives the crowd bread and the fish. His gospel is practical; feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, care for those in need. And what he did, he tells those who follow him to do:  “What do you have, go and see?”

Let’s not forget the practical demands of this story. At the same time, we know that the hunger Jesus addresses is more than physical hunger. All of us are looking for  more than physical food; our hunger is also for the “true bread from heaven that gives life to the world.”

Unlike other miracles Jesus worked, the miracle in the desert benefits, not just one person, it benefits all.

And so, when we come to the Eucharist, we come together to a place where “the hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.” (Psalm 145) We come to Jesus whose heart goes out to us.  Once again, he  takes bread and gives thanks. “This is my body,” he says. “Take and eat.”  This is the cup of my Blood,” he says. “Take and drink.”

And we are satisfied; we receive our Daily Bread. And from what we have, we give to others.