The story of the multiplication of the loaves enjoyed great popularity among Jesus’ followers. All the Gospel writers record it. Surely it moved them to think that this man of God concerned himself with feeding a crowd that was left without what they needed to eat.
According to John’s version, the first one to think of that crowd’s hunger as they gathered to listen to him, was Jesus himself. These people need to eat; something needs to be done for them. That’s the way Jesus was. He went about thinking about their basic needs.
Philip got him to see that they had no money. Among the disciples they are all poor: they can’t buy bread for so many. Jesus knows that. Those who have money will never solve the problem of hunger in the world. You need something more than money.
Jesus is going to help them glimpse a different path. Above all, no one needs to hog for himself what’s his if others are hungry. His disciples must learn to put what they have at the disposal of the hungry, though it is only «five barley loaves and two fish».
Jesus’ attitude is the simplest and most human that we can imagine. But who is going to teach us to share, if we only know how to buy? Who is going to free us from our indifference in the face of those who die of hunger? Is there something that can make us more human? Will that «miracle» of true solidarity among all become reality someday?
Jesus is thinking about God. It’s not possible to believe in God as Father of all, and then go about letting God’s sons and daughters die of hunger. That’s why he takes the food that he’s gathered from his companions, «raises his eyes to heaven and gives thanks». The Earth and all that feeds us we have received from God. It’s a gift of the Father, destined for all God’s sons and daughters. If we go about depriving others of what they need in order to live, it’s because we’ve forgotten this. It’s our big sin, though we almost never confess it.
When they shared the bread of the Eucharist, the first Christians felt themselves fed by the resurrected Christ, but at the same time they remembered Jesus’ gesture and they shared their goods with those most in need. They felt themselves to be brothers and sisters. They hadn’t forgotten Jesus’ Spirit yet.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf