Jesus feeds the five thousand

Gospel John 6:1-15 

Dear friends, we reflect on the theme ‘Christ continues to feed His people’. On this 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time we celebrate Christ, the new Elisha, who feeds and unites us. Our First Reading and the Gospel are similar. Both show the miracles of the multiplication of bread motivated by compassion and generosity.

In our First Reading, Elisha the prophet got a gift of food from a farmer, Baalshalishah, 20 barley loaves. However, noticing that the people were hungry, and moved by compassion, he generously offered it. Through the prophet Elisha, God miraculously multiplied the food, and he fed 100 people. Thus fulfilling his prophecy, they will eat and have some leftover.

In the Second Reading, St Paul reminds the Ephesians and us of the virtues that we need to live together as the Body of Christ, that is a community and family united by one Faith, one Baptism and one Spirit. These virtues include charity, generosity, gentility, complete selflessness and patience towards one another.

In the Gospel, moved by compassion of His flock, Christ, the new Elisha, replicated Elisha’s miracle. He fed more than five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish. He was sensitive to their situation and need. Christ cares for both our spiritual and physical needs. He feeds us with His Word and the Holy Eucharist.

There are many important lessons we can learn from these Readings and especially from these miracles:

  • From the compassion and generosity of Elisha and Jesus of their flock. Compassion moved them to feed their people generously. Compassion is the basis for sympathy. We need to understand what it means for others to be hungry, thirsty, sick, homeless, jobless and lonely.
  • God can transform something little into something extraordinary. We must not doubt God as the disciples did. Our God is a God of impossibilities. As Christ tells us in Mt 19:26 – with God all things are possible, and St Paul affirms in Phil 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
  • The generosity of the little boy. He is the hero in Jesus’ miracle. He generously offered what he had and became the motivation of the great miracle for his community. It is not only when we have in excess that we can be generous but even with little. An example is the prophet Elijah and the widow at Zarephath in 1 King 17:7-16. He saw her collecting firewood to prepare the last meal for her and her son because there was famine in that land. He asked for water and bread. The woman prepared a meal for Elijah and it sustained them for the rest of the year.

From two fish and five loaves the community was blessed with twelve baskets of food plus twelve baskets left over. This shows that at times God works with what we have. To be compassionate is to be like Christ. To be generous is to collaborate with Christ in His ministry. Christ saw to the disciples and the community’s collaboration and the little boy collaborated with what he had. He executed his fraternal spirit and changed the destiny of the hungry community.

How do we respond to the needs of the members of our community? What we have – our talents, time, knowledge, experience and faith – are the values that we must place at the service of others. A generous and compassionate attitude towards others is what can enrich the lives of many and our own lives. When compassion and generosity embrace, great miracles happen.

Today’s Liturgy denounces selfishness and greed. Let us pray for the spirit of sharing and generosity, that whatever we have and God has blessed us with, we can share with our needy brothers and sisters. Amen.