On hearing of the death of John the Baptist, Jesus was deeply upset and in need of finding a quiet place where he could share his grief with the apostles. However, when he stepped ashore there were thousands waiting to reach out and touch him and they were not disappointed. He began teaching and nourishing them in mind and heart and finally towards evening, when they had been without food for a long time, he satisfied their hunger by working the miracle of the loaves and fishes. It was clearly a miraculous event, a marvellous happening and a pointed to the fact that God, who creates the world, provides us with food and takes care of our every need. The crowd returned to their homes satisfied and spiritually refreshed from the time spent in the company of Jesus.
Here we have a picture of the church as it acts in every age. Jesus did not feed the stranded crowd at the edge of the sea of Galilee on his own. He accomplished it with the help of his disciples who were reluctant to accept responsibility for the hungry people. Their first reaction was to send the crowd away to fend for themselves, and let somebody else deal with the problem. Challenged by Jesus to use their own resources, they remembered having five loaves and two fishes which they brought to him. The little they had when placed in the hands of Jesus turned out to be more than enough for all. The five loaves and two fishes are symbols of power for goodness which we all possess. In our own eyes it may seem of little account but it is what the Lord has given us to use in his service. The gift may be our ability to be a good neighbour, a caring listener to a sorrowing widow or a willing member of a parish organisation. In whatever way we minister to the needs of others, we show forth the compassion of Christ and extend his friendship. Jesus sets before everyone the task of communicating his love through the qualities they possess.
When we gather around the altar to celebrate the eucharist by our presence we make an offering of self and show that with the rest of the church we accept the challenge of Jesus to do what we can for the good of others. He receives our gifts in the same manner as he accepted the five loaves and two fishes from the disciples and offering them to the Father, gives them eternal value. On their own our efforts may seem small and insignificant but when placed in God’s hands and fitted into his plans, they become a part of the great saving mission of the church and give a deeper meaning to our lives. The Lord not only invites us here to be nourished at his table but sends us forth to give as we have received, to forgive as we have been forgiven, and to love as we have been loved.
Father Peter Tipene