17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Though it was popular half a century ago in the 1970’s you still sometimes hear people saying “the real miracle here was that Jesus gave an example of sharing with the bread and fish which persuaded all those present to share the food they had brought with them – and so every one got something to eat”.
Unfortunately that clever seeming observation is in fact a direct and serious attack on the very heart of our faith, the divinity of Christ, the means of salvation and the Eucharist.
You see the feeding of the 5000 is a sign, a pre-figuration of the Eucharist, about which as we will hear over the next few weeks, Jesus is going to teach at length. So what this sign says is important.
The clever sounding observation suggest that the crowd had more than enough food – they needed Jesus to give them an example of sharing – but in the end they fed themselves. Translate this into the Mass, we bring all we need with us to Mass, Jesus doesn’t give us anything except an example, at mass we share with each other, we celebrate our community, we have the ability and the gifts to do this ourselves. Holy Communion, the breaking of bread, is just the symbol of Jesus’ example of sharing, which we follow. And indeed because all Jesus does is give an example, no actual miracle of multiplying bread and fish no actual miracle of changing bread and wine into his body and blood, then he doesn’t need to be God, just a good and holy man who gives us the example we need.
In fact by the lakeside the people have no food. They are hungry. It is Jesus himself, who, out love gives them the food they need. And this giving of food that only he can do is the anticipation, the foreshadowing of the self giving on the cross, which he can do only because he is true God and true man. And as he will teach the crowd it is Mass, in the gift of his body and blood, that this self giving, which is our salvation, continues.
In the clever sounding observation the people by the lakeside have their own food– they need nothing from Jesus except perhaps a good example, which they can take or leave, people who are comfortable, confident, content. We need to be like the people who actually were at the lakeside. Hungry, unable to help ourselves, relying on Jesus and ready to receive and accept from him what we need, prepared to listen to him and recognising that the cost of what he gives us, what he teaches us, how he loves us is the cross, and above all knowing that the Holy Eucharist, Holy Communion, the Sacrifice of the Mass is where he gives himself to us. He will speak about this to us over the next few weeks.