The folks who had followed Jesus had come to hear Him, to be healed or just wanted to have an adventure. Jesus gave them much more than they ever expected. Everyone had enough to eat with food left over.
Breaking bread together is an ancient ritual. The need to eat and drink transcends cultural differences, prejudices, socioeconomic distinctions. No doubt that people from all walks of life were present when the loaves and the fish were distributed. They were hungry, not only for the Word of God, but for nourishment. Jesus took care of them. No one had asked for food. Should give us a big hint that the Lord knows what we need even before we ask. Of course God loves to listen to our prayers. However, prayer changes us, not God. Prayer is like recharging our batteries, retuning to the source of life, allowing ourselves to surrender. We all have a difficult time surrendering our will to the will of another, especially to God. That’s the reason that we always give God so many suggestions—because we think that we know better. Imagine that at the feeding of the multitude some would have complaint: “I don’t eat fish! Do you have any gluten-free bread? I like to have my meals at a table, not sitting on the grass.” The Lord did not intend to please everyone—that was not His goal. Jesus knew what the crowd needed and didn’t bother to pass out menus.
Logically the Church placed this miracle account on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. The account is not from the Last Supper but the language anticipates the breaking of the Bread and the sharing of the Cup. Therefore the feeding of the multitude is like a preview of the Last Supper. Although the crowd did not receive Holy Communion, they were in Communion—they shared a common bond—being fed by the hand of God. Is that not what happens at Holy Mass? Are we not fed by the hand of God with the Eucharist? Here is where we make the perfect connection with Jesus. He is our host—the One who invites us to the Table. Although we have rules—laws that govern the Church, Jesus does not discriminate. He is indeed a merciful Lord.
As the Holy Father has reminded us: God’s Name is Mercy. Quite frankly, if God were not merciful, none of us would be here. The “worthy/unworthy” trap is always present. We try to justify our participation in Holy Communion. Truth is that we can never be worthy—God makes us worthy through His mercy—His forgiveness. Regardless of our good actions, good intentions, countless acts of piety—only the Blood of Christ can redeem us. His Sacrifice on the Cross paid the debt for our sins. Yes, we unite our humble sacrifices to the Cross, but the debt has been paid. We are free. That’s the Good News which so many have not heard. Countless remain slaves of past guilt; they can’t hear the salvation Christ has won because they are still in the tomb of sin. The Eucharist is one of the healing Sacraments. The Body of Blood of Christ forgives our sins. “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…” Just before Communion—we admit who we are. “But only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Jesus has said the word—He is the Word—and He wants us to be healed. Just like the nameless faces in the crowd that were fed, we too can be satisfied. Our desire is to have Jesus fill the void that no one else can fill. He can satisfy our longing to be forgiven.
We are in a much better place than those who received loaves and fishes. The food that we receive will last forever. We already taste the God we adore—the One who forgives.