Multiplication of the Loaves


Teach, Proclaim and Live

(Acts 5:34-42; Ps 27; Jn 6:1-15)


Do you see yourself as a teacher and proclaimer of faith?

The readings today invite us to imitate the early apostles in teaching about, and proclaiming, Jesus as the Messiah.

To teach and proclaim Jesus to the world, we have to know him well. Three titles by which we know Jesus emerge from the readings today: prophet; messiah and bread of life.

As prophet, Jesus not only spoke the truth of God – he was the truth of God, pointing the way to a better future, and challenging the status quo religion of his time. Interestingly, we are not that comfortable with Jesus as prophet. They wanted to make him king, and often, so do we. There are many parishes in the world called Christ the King, but to my knowledge there is not one called Christ the Prophet. That should give us reason to pause and reflect.

As Messiah, Jesus had four roles: to gather all the nations to God; to restore the temple, to overcome the enemies of Israel, and to reign as Lord over all forever. From the moment he began his ministry, people flocked to him from all directions, even more so than to the temple, rousing of course the jealousy of the priestly Temple class. He was gathering the nations to God.

By his death and resurrection, Jesus overcame the real enemy of Israel, the power of Satan and evil. By cleansing the temple and calling himself the new Temple of God, he was restoring the temple to its former glory, before the glory or shekinah of God rose up and left the temple in the time of Ezekiel, because of the corrupt nature of religion at that time. That glory of God did return – not to the physical temple building, but upon the temple of the Church gathered in the upper room in the form of wind and fire at Pentecost. We are now the dwelling place of God, temples of the Holy Spirit.

And by his resurrection and ascension into heaven, we know that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, reigning over all until all the enemies of God are placed at his feet.

As messiah, Jesus also had a two-fold mission: to redeem and sanctify, to forgive and heal. He establishes his reign in our hearts when we come to him for forgiveness of all our sins (which he promptly forgets), and for healing of our painful emotions and negative attitudes. That is how we can access the “new way of life” the apostles proclaimed over and over after the resurrection.

Finally, in the gospel, we see some divine irony. When faced with the impossible challenge of feeding the multitudes, the apostles ask what worth are five loaves and two fish? The irony is they do not realize they are in the presence of the very Bread of Life – it is a moot question – they need look no further. It is Jesus alone who can truly satisfy the deeper yearnings of the human heart.

This miracle mirrors the Liturgy of the Word and Eucharist – after teaching the people, Jesus feeds them. Jesus makes the customary Eucharistic moves in regard to the bread: taking, giving thanks, and distributing. And everyone is fed. During the sacred liturgy, the priest, on behalf of the people, offers to God a small pittance: some wafers of bread and some wine and water. But because God has no need of these gifts, they come back infinitely multiplied for the benefit of the people.

Through the power of Christ’s word, those gifts become his very Body and Blood, the only food capable of feeding the deepest hunger of the human heart. This liturgical rhythm is beautifully conveyed by the iconic lines: “Jesus took the bread, gave thanks to God, and distributed it to the people who were sitting there . . . and they all had as much as they wanted.”

The Hebrew people took numbers seriously, and so should we to get the full meaning of the gospel. Five and two (imperfect numbers) make seven, a perfect number. There is a hint here that with faith in Jesus, our meagre resources can be magnified beyond measure. And after the people had eaten as much as they wanted, there were twelve baskets left over – a deliberate number symbolizing two key items: Jesus is the Messiah who fulfills God’s plan for the chosen people, the twelve tribes of Israel, and that Jesus alone can fulfill the profound human yearning for wholeness and completeness.

The world today is hungry for that bread, but lacking faith and knowledge of who Jesus really is. People thus get taken in by the false gods of possession, prestige and power that will all too likely lead to addiction. I heard today of a person who bought some tarot cards, spread the word, and now people are coming to her for readings, and paying her for it! But the same people would roll their eyes at the news of Jesus as the Bread of Life. How sad is that? They do not know what they are missing.

The Eucharist is our food for that spiritual journey, the food that alone truly satisfies our deepest yearning for love, belonging and self-esteem, and that gives us the strength to say no to the false gods of possessions, prestige and power.

So, let us be modern apostles, get to know Jesus better, put our faith in him, teach others about him and proclaim him as Messiah, Prophet and the true Bread of Life.


Updated: April 12, 2024 — 2:31 am

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