+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Our Lord Jesus Christ stamped peculiar force upon the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish, as he worked this same miracle twice in the Gospels, but not only does he work the same miracle twice, the Church actually calls us to read the miracle of multiplying loaves and fish three different times during the year. In order, the Fourth Sunday in Lent, today the Seventh Sunday After Trinity, and finally the Sunday Next Before Advent. The repetition must cause us to pause and examine closely what God teaches us in the Gospel text because God gives us in each instance a depiction of his salvation for mankind. God allows us to glimpse a small scale model of his cosmic plan to redeem mankind and restore his creation to himself, which makes this miracle all the more wonderful, and could explain why our Lord takes time to work it twice and the Church takes three weeks out of fifty-two to meditate upon it. Jesus normally uses a miracle to vindicate his teaching and proves his claims as the truth. One of the best examples is from St. Luke 5 when the Lord tells a paralytic his sins are forgiven him and he then turns to the Pharisees and says which is easier: to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. That’s pretty wonderful for sure, but of course his greatest vindication came with the miracle of the Resurrection. God the Holy Ghost raised our Lord Jesus from the dead which vindicated every teaching, every claim, and every command he ever issued, but here in the miraculous multiplying of the loaves and fish the miracle surely vindicates his teaching (the text never mentions what that teaching was), but the focus here is upon the miracle as the teaching. The Scriptures teach us who Jesus is and what he has come to do.
St. Mark’s account tells us that Jesus was moved with compassion for the hungry crowd that had been with him for three days. The great Physician of our Souls is also concerned with our bodies! Compassion and pity indicate his great love towards us. God moves first towards mankind. The picture in the miracle reflects the greater miracle that Christ worked in winning our salvation. He saw us in desperate need running towards our own destruction due to sin, and he pitied us. St. John proclaims that we love because he first loved us. Men were fed and satisfied out of the love Christ had for the multitude, but more so, he indicates that he is willing to satisfy their souls as well. By supplying the small bodily need of food, he proves himself to care about the greater things as well. For if he was so moved to compassion for the body, which is perishing, how much more is our Lord moved with compassion for the soul, which perishes not? It is on this basis of Love that God hears and answers our prayers for needs both big and small, and since God does not and cannot change, we may trust that he continues to be Love each day. The compassion of our Lord in the miracle becomes the root of our Faith and trust.
Next, compared to the compassion of the Lord which leads to him showcase his divine power in providing food for the multitudes, I must remark upon the incapability of the multitudes to provide for themselves. Jesus says that they had been with him for three days and if they left without provision, they would faint by the way for divers of them came from far. They were taught in the wilderness, or desert, where there is no food really to speak of. What did Jesus say to the Devil in his temptation? Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. The crowd followed Jesus into the wilderness because they craved his teaching, they lived upon his very word, and in turn became totally dependent upon him to deliver them home without fainting from hunger. The crowd chose well! But the disciples ask the million dollar question after Jesus tells them these things, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness? Your compassion is commendable Jesus, but how can you possibly feed this many people? The rhetorical question of the disciples is meant to have one answer, and the disciples are not wrong. From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread? Well, a mere man could not do it, only God could, and that’s exactly what Jesus did.
There are echoes of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness within the miracle. Miraculous bread, a deserted wilderness, a big crowd of people. It should remind us how Israel followed God who manifested himself as either as a cloud by day or a pillar of fire at night. They would move whenever the cloud moved. More so is that God fed them manna in the wilderness as they wandered for those forty years. God satisfied them with miraculous bread. From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread? Notice in the Gospel text that God is still the one providing bread; it is still miraculous; and it still satisfies, yet, there is more now as God does not show himself in some cloud or pillar of fire, but rather God shows himself in flesh and blood. He leads his people in person as one of us. Our Lord is, as Saint Paul in the Book of Hebrews tells us, a sympathetic high priest, one who was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. God himself now shares in our very nature, he was tempted like us, he hungered, he thirsted, he suffered. All for the sake of salvation. All for the sake of feeding us so that we do not faint by the way.
And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them. Our Lord uses a familiar form of words here. In them we see the foreshadowing of Christ’s words at the Last Supper and the consecration prayer in the Liturgy. Our Lord offers up the loaves to God in thanks and gives them for God’s purposes which reflects the Holy Communion where our Lord gives up his own flesh and blood as the perfect sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. This miraculous multiplication of mere bread anticipates the miracle of the Eucharist where the Bread of Heaven, Jesus’ flesh, would be multiplied and given for the life of the world on every Christian altar wherever the Church has gathered to worship. In light of the miracle of the multiplication of the Body and Blood of our Lord in the Communion, it only makes sense that the Lord would employ his disciples for the distribution to the multitude, and in the same vein it is the clergy in Christ’s Church that serve as the ministers of the Holy Communion and give you the very gift which our Lord wrought by his own divine power, since he promised that those who hungered for righteousness would be filled.
You brethren are now in the wilderness, for how could the wilderness represent anything but the world? Like the ancient Israelites traveling through the barren wilderness with no food or water save what God provided as they traveled towards the Promised Land, we now travel through the world, with all of its barren pomps and temptations, towards the heavenly realms, and we need a better manna, a better bread, the very Bread of Heaven to sustain us that we will not faint along the way! As Israel ate the manna everyday to live, so now we feed on the Lord’s Body and Blood. What a difference between these two breads! While the origin of the manna was miraculous, (it fell from the sky). It was still only bread, people still died, and that bread could not save. The bread that Jesus multiplied in the miracle which we consider now was also miraculous and came from the very hands of the Lord himself, but it was still only bread. Jesus even rebukes the crowds later in the Gospel and tells them to seek after the bread that does not perish. He even bluntly tells them that their ancestors who fed on manna died in the wilderness. Man needs a different bread. They need the Bread of Life, those who feed on that bread, Will. Never. Die. and Christ will raise him up on the last day.
Our Lord still has compassion upon us as he wills to work the same miracle as he once did this very day, but elevated and completed so he can satisfy your soul as well as your body. Perhaps, this is why Jesus performs the same miracle twice and the Church meditates upon it three times. Jesus Christ will work that same miracle again, right now, but instead of only bread, no matter how miraculous it’s origin, he gives us heavenly bread, the Bread of Life, his own Body, in order that we might persevere in the Faith unto the end; in order that we would not faint along the way. For if God left us to our own devices, our own will, our own power, we would perish just as the multitude would have if Jesus had not pitied them. And that is the Gospel Beloved. Christ had compassion towards us. In our sin we were dead and dying. We were separated from God, the one whose very presence is Life. It is why Saint Paul calls the wages of sin death. But God, out of his compassion, overcame the separation and dwelt among us as a man, and even died for our sake to defeat sin, death, and the Devil, and then He gives us Himself for Bread.
I know where to get the Bread that satisfies, and it does not come from the World. Your ultimate happiness and satisfaction does not and cannot come from sin and those things which lead to death itself, but it can only come from God. It can only come through Jesus Christ. It can only come by the power of the Holy Ghost. It can only be appertained through Faith. Abandon your sins. Stop eating the bread of materialism. Of rebellion. Of apathy. Of distraction. Of vainglory and pride. Of lust. Repent and give yourself to Jesus Christ. He will feed and sustain you as you press on towards resurrection and the new heavens and the new earth. I know where to get the Bread that satisfies. Its the one Jesus brake for the forgiveness of sins and the life of the world upon a Cross. The shame of that Cross becomes the very thing in which the Church boasts. That through death, my God gave me resurrection life. I know where to get the bread that satisfies. It’s here at the Altar where Christ stands ready to give you Himself that you might live, not as you once were or even are today, but as a new creature remade after His likeness. You know where to get the bread that satisfies. Come and be fed.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.