IN THOSE DAYS, Jesus saw a great crowd and He had compassion for them and healed their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late, send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to the disciples, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Then Jesus ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled, and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds.
There are some parallels in this Gospel lesson and Israel's wondering in the desert for 40 years. One glaring difference, of course, is that that the great crowd spent only one night with Jesus in the "deserted place" (Matthew 14:13). However, just like in the desert after the exodus from Egypt (Exodus 16), so here in the deserted place, we find the people hungry. It's not surprising, for there is no food in a desert.
In both cases God does what God does - feed His people. As an aside, notice that these miracles did not lead to greater devotion for God from people. Israel, after receiving enough food, murmured and complained, and in the end built a golden calf, an idol, which they worshipped (Exodus 32). Jesus, likewise, ended up on the Cross, even after healing and feeding the people.
This feeding of His people continues to this day. However, unlike in the desert and in the deserted place, God does not give us just food. In the deserted world that we populate today, God feeds us with Himself. In the Gospel according to Saint John, Jesus declares, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty ... Whoever eats of this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh" (John 6:35, 51). Thus, the manna from heaven after exodus and bread with fish at the feeding of the five thousand were both signs of the True Bread that truly sustains.
The fact that very similar language is used at the description of the blessing of five loaves of bread and two fish and during the institution of the Last Supper (Matthew 26:26-30, Mark 14:22-26, Luke 22:14-23) points to Christ fulfilling His promise of "whoever comes to Me will never be hungry." Therefore, to have eternal life, we must believe in Christ. There is no way around it. In order to not hunger any more, both physically and spiritually, we must receive and partake of the True Bread, the Lord Himself.
For last year's reflection, click here.
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest