A New Feature! Friday Focus --
This week’s focus: Loaves and Fishes -- Proper 13 Year A
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves." Jesus said to them, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat." They replied, "We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish." And he said, "Bring them here to me." Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. - Matthew 14: 13-21
The miracle of the loaves and fishes is a tale we have heard over and over since childhood. It is the only miracle recounted in all four gospels. Yet despite its familiarity, its full meaning often escapes our understanding.
Was it simply a crowd pleaser to throw in a meal for the multitude? Was it only a parlor trick on a divine scale to wow the faithful and confound the skeptics? Doubtless the miracle served both purposes, but in all of Christ’s words and actions there is a single, deeper message: God loves us. And Christ is literally the embodiment of that love. Where we see scraps, he can create abundance. Where we see emptiness and depression, he can create profound fulfillment and boundless joy. In his love we are nourished and protected. He is the bread of life.
The multitudes didn’t have to come back for seconds either. They were filled and there was enough left over for doggy bags – twelve baskets full. What a perfect analogy for God’s love – the bottomless well, the endless buffet.
Each one in the multitude was human. They, like all of us, had primitive survival instincts that ask: Where’s my share? Why didn’t I get that piece? Yet each and every one went away satisfied. God does not love us as a multitude… a mere category of his creation. He knows and loves each and every one of us in our own personal failings and foolishness. He has a plan for each one of us and more than enough love to fill your basket and mine to overflowing. In that blessed assurance, let us: taste and see the goodness of the Lord. Ps 34:8