No one would gainsay that we are beginning to read one of the most important chapters of St. John’s Gospel with today’s liturgy, chapter six, the discourse on the Bread of Life. That chapter begins with the familiar story of the feeding of the multitude.
Usually our attention is drawn to the miraculous part of this story. Five thousand men with their women and children are fed with five barley loaves and two fish. However, my attention was drawn to two other aspects of the story today.
First of all, I was drawn to the boy who originally had the five barley loaves and two fish. Andrew calls attention to him. “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. . .” Before we know it, those five loaves and two fish are in the hands of Jesus who begins to distribute them to the multitude. “Jesus took the loaves. . .” Are we to imagine that Jesus simply took the loaves and the fish away from the boy? That doesn’t seem like something Jesus would do. I am sure that the evangelist is telling us that the boy gave the food to Jesus, freely and without demanding compensation. He shares what he has with those who have not.
At the end of the Gospel, Jesus asks the disciples to gather the fragments. We are told that there were twelve baskets of fragments. Lest so much go to waste, it is gathered. There is literally enough left over for a considerable feast, a feast for the poor inasmuch as barley loaves were the food of the poor.
One shares what he has. Much is left over. These two details cannot be ignored. When we share what we have, there is more than enough for everyone. No one goes hungry. No one is deprived.
As we continue to listen to this story, these two details will help us come to understand what the Eucharist, the Bread of Life is all about - food for the multitude, food for the poor, enough food for us all.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator