Dear friends. The miracle of the loaves and fish is an episode from Jesus’ life that is recorded in all four Gospels. There is so many layers of meaning to the story and so much to ponder. Here I would like to reflect on two important dimensions to the story – one from the human side and the other from God’s side. This story, like so many others in Scripture, bring us back to something important about ourselves and about God.
First about ourselves. We humans are creatures who hunger. We need to eat or else we die. We hunger for real food, for what nourishes us and gives us the strength to keep living. That is why the Church and every Christian ought to be concerned for the scandal of hunger and the issues around food. ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat’ (Matt. 25:34ff). Starting in our kitchens, this means trying our best not to waste food. It could mean inviting someone for dinner or for lunch – someone perhaps we haven’t met in a while and might need support and kindness. It could mean volunteering for the Meals on Wheels and thanking those already involved. On the global scale, our concern for hunger stretches our compassion to places like Turkana in Kenya and the drought caused by climate change. It pushes us, and needs to push us, to consider the terrible famine raging in Yemen that is being responded to by organisations such as Trocaire and UNICEF.
But the hunger on display in the story is also of a spiritual nature. We humans are not just hungry for food but hungry for God. We hunger for many things including love, peace and security. We try to satisfy that hunger often with things other than God. But the Word of God is clear, especially from the first reading – ‘Why spend money on what is not bread and your wages on what fails to satisfy?’ Only a deep friendship with God can truly satisfy us for unless we have that, we will always be searching and still not finding what we are looking for. But when we do turn to the Lord in our need, he never fails to satisfy our need and adds even more in ways we did not expect or ask for. The story of the loaves and the fish is another example of God’s abundant generosity and goodness that is above and beyond our own calculated approach.
For us Catholics, this divine generosity is on full display at the Eucharist which is anticipated by the miracle of the loaves and fish. There we see our God giving Himself away in self-sacrificing love as bread for the hungry. There, his infinite love comes to meet our infinite longing in a moment of loving union. And it is this loving union between us and Him – the lover and his beloved – that is brought about and made stronger when we receive the Eucharist. This is the union that St Paul describes beautifully in the second reading today as being so strong that nothing can separate us from it, except our choice to reject him.
Friends, as we sit down for Sunday lunch today, spare a thought for the hungry in our world, those both near and those far away. We pray for a share in the great compassion of Jesus on display in the Gospel where he saw a need and responded to it, encouraging us to do the same. As we ponder our nature and how God has made us, we recognise our hunger for God which he alone can satisfy and does satisfy in a special way with the gift of the Eucharist, the gift of himself. Today and every day, our God invites the hungry to ‘Come’ to Him and never doubt his generosity.