When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already very late. Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” He said to them in reply, “Give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Are we to buy two hundred days’ wages worth of food and give it to them to eat?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out they said, “Five loaves and two fish.” So he gave orders to have them sit down in groups on the green grass. The people took their places in rows by hundreds and by fifties. Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to Heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; he also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied. And they picked up twelve wicker baskets full of fragments and what was left of the fish. Those who ate of the loaves were five thousand men.( Mark 6:34-44)
The Parable of the loaves and fishes is the only one that is retold in all four Gospels. I like to think that is because it offers us insight into Jesus Christ as well as points to what we are called to do.
St. Mark tells us, “When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.” This pity, this merciful love, is what defines God’s whole approach to us. St. John describes it : “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only begotten son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as expiation for our sins.”
This is a love that God not only wants us to recognize and receive, but remain in and ultimately share. He who is love and created us in his image and likeness wants us to love like he loves.
Love requires courage because loving makes us vulnerable. True love is to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. True love is sacrificial, even to the point of death. That takes guts. But love gives us the motivation to be courageous. When God gives himself to us, when he abides in us loving us from the inside, then we are emboldened to love each other.
When we receive him whose heart was moved with pity for us and for others, our heart is changed. When as good sheep we welcome within the Good Shepherd who compassionately looks on the crowd as sheep without a shepherd, we are able to make the transition from good sheep to good shepherds after his own heart, willing even to die for the sheep and lambs he entrusts to us to feed and tend.
In this parable, Jesus began to teach those who came to him, but he asked his disciples to provide them with food. Did Jesus need the disciples’ help to provide for the physical needs of the crowd? Of course not. However, Our Lord chooses to work through human instruments. Just as he asked his disciples to feed the crowd, he asks us to feed those in need today through the corporal and spiritual acts of mercy. When we see a need, it may be easier to tell someone else about it than it is to try to address it ourselves; however, Jesus asks each of us to actively care for others according to our personal call and mission.
When Jesus told the disciples to feed the people, they protested that they didn’t have what was necessary. Jesus didn’t accept that answer. He asked the disciples what resources they did have and told them, “Go and see.” How often it is that we, too, feel inadequate in the face of the needs around us. Problems may seem too big for us to address. We may see a lack of resources or feel unprepared, and we may experience a sense of hopelessness.
However, just as Jesus blessed and multiplied the gifts the disciples brought to him; he will bless those efforts that he calls us to make in his name. We need to take stock of what we do have to offer (our gifts and talents) and to what we feel called (what causes a particular tug on our hearts). When we bring all this to Jesus, he will show us how to distribute what we have to offer to meet the real needs around us.
Each of us is called to open ourselves to receive God’s mercy in the way that he teaches us, feeds us each day, heals us, forgives us, hears our prayers and makes us his merciful collaborators. Each of us is called, together with others and our Churches, to examine ourselves on whether we love others as Christ has loved us, whether the love of Christ compels us to learn our faith so as to teach it with fire, to hunger for what God hungers and feed his starving children, to care with compassion for all those sick and wounded, to forgive others who have wronged us, bring others to receive God’s mercy and become, God-willing, a fully generous minister of that extraordinary gift, and to pray for laborers to join us in the vineyards to take it the enormous harvest that is white and ripe.
His love is overwhelming. His heart knew no boundaries. His forgiveness was there for all. How magnificent, how generous. Pray God that each of us follows in those footsteps.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus Christ, you satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts and you feed us with the finest of wheat (Psalm 81:16). Fill me with gratitude for your blessings and give me a generous heart that I may freely share with others what you have given to me.”
The feeding of the five thousand shows the remarkable generosity of God and his great kindness towards us. In the multiplication of the loaves and fishes we see a sign and a symbol of what God always does. When God gives – he gives abundantly. He gives more than we need for ourselves so that we may have something to share with others as well, especially those who lack what they need. God takes the little we have and multiplies it for the good of others. Do you trust in God’s provision for your life and do you freely share what you have with others, especially those who lack what they need?