by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
July 25, 2012
John 6: 1-15
Of all Jesus' actions during his prophetic activity, the most remembered by the early Christian communities was certainly a massive meal organized by him in the countryside, near the Lake of Galilee. It's the only episode reflected in all the Gospels.
The content of the story is very rich. Following its custom, the Gospel of John doesn't call it a "miracle" but a "sign". This invites us not to dwell on the events being described, but to discover a deeper meaning from faith.
Jesus is at the center. No one asks him to intervene. It is he who senses the hunger of those people and raises the need to feed it. It's touching to know that Jesus did not just feed people with the Good News of God, but also worried about the hunger of his sons and daughters.
How to feed a large crowd in the countryside? The disciples don't find any solution. Philip says one can't think of buying bread, because they don't have any money. Andrew thinks that what there is could be shared, but one boy alone has five loaves and two fish. What's that for so many?
It's enough for Jesus. This boy, nameless and faceless, will make the impossible, possible. His willingness to share everything he has is the way to feed those people. Jesus will do the rest. He takes the boy's bread in his hands, gives thanks to God, and begins to "distribute it" among all.
The scene is fascinating. A crowd, seated on the green grass of the field, sharing a free meal on a spring day. It's not a rich people's banquet. There isn't any wine or meat. It's the simple food of people who live near the lake: barley bread and smoked fish. A fraternal meal served by Jesus to all, thanks to a boy's generous gesture.
For the early Christians, this shared meal was a powerful symbol of the community born of Jesus to build a new and fraternal humanity. At the same time, it evoked for them the Eucharist they celebrated on the Lord's Day to nourish themselves with the spirit and strength of Jesus, the living Bread come from God.
But they never forgot the boy's gesture. If there is hunger in the world, it isn't due to food scarcity but to a lack of solidarity. There is bread for all; the generosity to share is lacking. We have left the direction of the world in the hands of the financial powers that be, we're afraid to share what we have, and people are dying of hunger because of our irrational selfishness.