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Sunday, July 29, 2012

John Chapter 6 - The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes and the Eucharist

John 6:1-15
Loaves and Fishes

During Liturgical Year B we read from the Gospel of Mark.  Since this is the shortest of the Gospels, the 6th chapter of John is added to the readings for year B.  This Sunday the Seventeenth in Ordinary Time we begin our journey through John 6 which will culminate a few weeks from now with the Bread of Life Discourse. 

In today’s Gospel we hear the miracle of the loaves and fish recited in John 6:1-15.  This takes place just days before the Jewish Passover, foreshadowing the Christian Easter and setting the foundation for the Bread of Life Discourse of John 6:26-58. 

The first reading from 2 Kings 4:42-44 sets the stage.  “A man came from Baalshalishah bringing to Elisha, the man of God, twenty barley loaves made from the firstfruits, and fresh grain in the ear.  Elisha said, “Give it to the people to eat.”  But his servant objected, “How can I set this before a hundred people?”  Elisha insisted, “Give it to the people to eat.  For thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.’”  And when they had eaten, there was some left over.”

Here the great prophet of the Old Testament, Elisha fed one hundred men with twenty barley loaves in order to demonstrate the power of God.  Would the Jewish people present when Jesus fed the five thousand with five barley loaves and two fish know of this miracle of Elisha?  Yes, the miracle they were about to witness would not be lost on them, as Jesus would reveal himself an even greater prophet than Elisha.

The hand of the Lord feeds us;
he answers all our needs
.”  (Psalm 145:16)

“A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.” (John 6:2)  Seeing this multitude, Jesus was moved to fill their needs, both physical and spiritual.  As a test, because he already knew what he was going to do, Jesus asked his disciple Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” (John 6:5) Philip’s answer, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” (John 6:7)

Amongst the multitude of five thousand gathered that day was a boy who had “five barley loaves and two fish.”  (John 6:9) A seemingly small amount to feed such a large crowd, yet the Lord asks for this small amount and  uses it to accomplish a great miracle.   

 “Jesus said,  “Have the people recline”…So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.  Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. “  (John 6:10-11)

In this miracle and with these words, Jesus would foreshadow the institution of the Eucharistic.  A sacrament which for over 2000 years has been confected by the Priests of the Catholic Church in persona Christi during the Eucharistic Prayer with the words,  “He took bread and, giving thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying:  Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body, which will be given up for you.” 

 “When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.”  So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.  When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”” (John 6:12-14)

In this miracle we also witness how God, who can do everything, even create something from nothing, when dealing with us, his free creatures, will not take action without, in some way, our consent.  We on our own can accomplish very little, yet God wants, he desires, maybe even requires as a condition for his intervention into our lives, that we offer him what little we have.

Part Two John Chapter 6:24-35

The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes - Tintoretto
The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes - Bernardo Strozzi
The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes - Lambert Lombard 

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