“Heed me, and you shall eat well,
You shall delight in rich fare.
Come to me heedfully,
Listen, that you may have life.
What wonderful words we just heard. Words of hope, expectancy, and love from the God that cares about us. We know these words to be true because Jesus stayed with the people because they needed him.
Jesus did this spectacular miracle of feeding the people at a time he was filled with deep grief because he had just heard his true friend, John, had died. He tried to get away by himself but was deluged by people who wanted to hear him speak and just wanted to be with him. Have you had that happen to you? Something hurtful or painful has come up and you could not even stop to be alone for a time. To be able to carry on even when you think you can’t is a gift Jesus teaches in this reading.
When it was evening, the crowd did not want to go home even though it was dinner time. Jesus did not hesitate for a moment. He asked the disciples to bring him the seemingly little food they could produce: five loaves and two fish. He looked up to heaven and blessed the food. What happened next is a mystery and a miracle.
We really do not know what happened next. Did the fish and bread multiply or did something else happen? I want to propose an idea that would could make sense. I believe that in addition to the loaves and fishes, the people looked around and began bringing out the food they had packed for the long journey and invited one another to share.
What I am talking about is having a grand banquet of various foods brought from the homes of the people attending. They had to pack the food ahead of time because they did not know where they were going to end up. And, they knew that their families would be hungry at the end of the day. Remember that most of the families were poor and had little money to buy food from a market. So, they did what they had always done. They packed enough food for the journey and enough food to feed their family.
Groups of people brought out their food and spread it on the blanket they were sitting on. These were good people who were able to notice who had much food and could also notice who had little food. I believe that they shared what food they had with their strangers and got to know more about the people they were sitting with and shared stories and experiences that Jesus had done for them. This oral tradition was the only way people could communicate Jesus stories to one another. Because Jesus had cured people early in the day I am sure that stories were going around in the large group of people who were healed. Some of the ones who were healed told of the time that they were sick or crippled and now they were well.
Perhaps the fish and loaves were passed out to the people. But more importantly the people passed the word around that Jesus was a healer. These stories of the compassion of Jesus and his mercy helped the people to believe and remember when he was gone.
This large picnic of five thousand men, not counting women and children was a miracle in itself. All of the people witnessed the large group of people and heard spectacular stories of this wonderful man, Jesus. They knew they something wonderful was happening and they carried on the stories they had heard home and repeated them.
This is how the Gospel is passed on. Amen and Amen