17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B (2021): 2 Kgs 4:42-44; Jn 6:1-15
Sunday, July 25, 2021
Since the liturgical reform of VCII, the Church adopted a 3-year scriptural reading cycle, where the Gospels of Sts. Matthew, Mark and Luke would be read respectively each year and repeated after the 3 years had passed.
The Gospel of St John does not have its own yearly reading, but instead stories that are found only in the Gospel of St. John are used to compliment the other 3 Gospels and give the complete reading of the entire life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Over the next few weeks, we will pause from our reading of St. Mark’s Gospel and hear from chapter 6 of St. John’s Gospel, commonly called the Bread of Life Discourse as it is here that Jesus gives his complete explanation of the Holy Eucharist that will be given at the Last Supper.
Since the Eucharist is so essential to the life of Catholics, commonly called the source and summit of the faith, we are fortunate to spend these coming weeks to relearn and rediscover the wonder of the Eucharist and its quintessential centre in our Catholic lives.
We learn today that Jesus begins his teaching on the Bread of Life by way of a miracle. It is notable that the multiplication of the loaves and fish took place near Capernaum, which was Jesus’ new hometown after departing from Nazareth. We know the people of Capernaum were slow to believe in Christ, despite the miracles he performed, so it is significant our Lord choose a town of disbelief and skepticism as the place to teach about the Eucharist which requires humble faith and a sense of profound trust in God to believe that ordinary bread and wine becomes His true Body and Blood.
Feeding 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish is a miracle in its own right, but like so many of our Lord’s miracles, there is much more going on than just the miraculous fact that so many were feed with so little.
Firstly, St John tells us that this miracle took place when the Passover of the Jews was near. This small detail was mentioned very intentionally, since it shows us the reader that the teaching Jesus will give in the synagogue at Capernaum about the Eucharist will come to its ultimate fulfillment at the Last Supper, when celebrating the Passover with his 12 Apostles, He brought the ancient sacrificial meal of Israel to completion by becoming the true Passover Lamb who would die on the Cross the following day and took the Passover bread and transformed it into His Body and took the Passover wine and transformed it into His Blood.
Jesus needed to first teach the people about the Eucharist before he could share It at the Last Supper and at every Mass until the end of the world.
Secondly, Jesus intentionally choose that it would be 5 loaves and 2 fish as the amount He would use to feed the 5000. The 5 loaves were barley bread, which was the food of the poor. It was the same bread that we heard today Elisha used to feed 100 people with 20 loaves.
Here Jesus completes a much greater miracle than Elisha, using the same bread of poor but with far fewer loaves and leaving much left over, as a foreshadowing of the Eucharist which miraculously in multiplied throughout the world in every Catholic Church, where billions who are humble and poor in spirit are able to receive the Body of Christ and know that Sacred Hosts that remain after Holy Communion is received are placed in the tabernacle to prolong the presence the Eucharistic Lord among us.
Further, St. Bede commented that the 5 loaves and 2 fish were the specific numbers chosen by the Lord since the 5 loaves represented the 5 books of the Torah, which made up the entirety of the Law of God, and the 2 fish represented the Book of Psalms and the Books of the Prophets, which along with the Torah represented the fullness of God’s revelation that He gave His people before the coming of Jesus into the world.
Finally, after the miracle of the multiplication, the people cried out Jesus was the prophet who is to come into the world. The prophet they are referring to was the one that Moses promised would be sent by God.
This prophet was seen as a Messiah, a saviour, who would teach with the same authority and wisdom of Moses and bring to fulfillment many prophesies that for centuries were left unanswered and which people longed with deep desire to see made manifest in their times.
As we can see, a lot more than just a great miracle took place that one on the shores of the Sea of Galilee that captivated the minds of people who were hungry, not just for physical food, but spiritual nourishment.
Might I suggest that as we explore this great teaching of the Eucharist over the next many weeks, that our Lord will feed us spiritually in whatever ways we are feeling empty and longing for a deeper sense of God’s presence in our lives.
In Jesus through Mary, Fr. Nathan