Grace to you!
I reflect on the astonishing miracle of feeding the five thousand (Mt 14:13-21).
We read in the opening lines of the Gospel of Matthew 14, how Herod the tetrarch, hearing about Jesus’ popularity, believed John the Baptist, whom he beheaded, had come back to life. The Lord Jesus, aware of Herod’s concerns, decided to withdraw to the other side of the Sea of Galilea (see Jn 6:1), which was lonely (Mt 14:13).
The Lord could have remained where he was. Instead, he chose to leave the territory. Maybe this was to avoid unnecessary confrontation with Herod. The Lord knew it was not yet “the hour.” He always shows us an example to follow.
There are times to be at the forefront of things. There are times to withdraw and not engage. You don't just waste your energy fighting a battle that has no value to your mission. You don't bring attention when you know it isn't God's time. Listen to God first before you commit to anything. Timing is everything in the ministry.
As the Lord withdrew, the people who are longing for his word followed him on foot. One could say that their hunger was for something more profound than anyone could provide. It represents the desires of all peoples to find a deeper meaning to life and inner peace. Such hunger is a seedbed for the miracle of grace.
One notices that when the people came to the Lord, they weren’t described as expecting material food or drink. They were longing for the word of God. The Lord, who knows the heart, also knows they are wounded bodily too. Hence, he had compassion on them and healed their sick (Mt 14:14). Healing is part of why the Lord came. He forgives our sins and heals our diseases (Ps 103:3). By his wounds, we are healed (Is 53:5).
The word of God which Jesus is, and which he utters, gripped the people. They listened all day long. We read that in the evening, it was late. The disciples came to the Lord, seeking his permission to send the people away because it was late and lonely. The Lord was not going to let that happen (Mt 14:15-16). Abandon his own? Never. The Lord will never abandon you.
The disciples miss the whole point as we, many times, do. They missed the point that one with God isn’t alone and lonely. You cannot be with the fountain of Life, Christ the Lord, and be banished in the loneliness of lack. The Lord makes a way where there is no way. The disciples must learn this lesson. Hence the Lord commands them to give the people something to eat (Mt 14:16).
Notice that unlike in the Gospel of John 6, which is John's version of this miracle, the Lord did not ask, “How are we to buy bread so that these people may eat?" (Jn 6:5). He rather told the disciples to give them something to eat. It was apparent what the Lord was asking was impossible to do, yet he asks. The disciples’ response reaffirms the impossibility of the request. They have only five loaves and two fish. These to feed thousands of people? Impossible!
Great lesson. Anyone who listens to God and walks by faith, not by sight, knows that miracles only happen when things are physically impossible. God works not because we have sufficient resources, but because He is our sufficiency. The Lord is our Sufficient Resource. What is the point of a miracle if our own power could solve the problem? Miracles happen when we work in faith in the promises of God.
The first miracle of impossibilities is the changing of the human heart. No one can change anyone, if not the power of God. The miracle of grace takes over, and a new life is born from within. Conversion is a miracle.
Similarly, when we assume our "own" sufficiency, we see how lonely we become and how unfruitful our works will be. Ask those who have been called for unique missions or charisms. They will tell you how what seemed clearly impossible was made possible by the Lord when they let God lead the way. The Lord makes the impossible things possible because he is all the Yes of divine Providence. He is Providence itself.
We learn from the Fathers of the Church the deeper meaning of this miracle. It is not just about the food that perishes but about the Bread of Life that endures. Those who hunger and thirst are satisfied in the Bread of Life that is lifted in thanksgiving to God. The Blessed Lord Jesus offered himself as this offering of thanksgiving so that we will receive the miracle of grace.
For us, the Eucharist becomes this source and summit, from which the lonely soul is accompanied, and the hungry heart is fed and satisfied.
Every day in the Eucharistic communion is a miracle more magnificent than any other. Thank you, Jesus, for this miracle of grace. Thank you for your compassion and for feeding us with your precious Body and Blood. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Sunday Week 18 A: Isaiah 55:1-3; Romans 8:35, 37-38; Matthew 14:13-21]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.