God’s Word provides for us the most beautiful roadmap; however, it is up to us to listen to him and follow his directions if we are to experience the life he offers us. How many times in our lives have we tuned him out, closed our ears and chosen our own path? How many times have we experienced heartache and pain because we tried to go it alone without him? Even as his followers our minds can become muddled and we don’t always hear him clearly. Yet, he continually promises us that he is faithful and he can be trusted to guide us perfectly.
Today’s readings are full of wisdom and hope for those who wish to hear and follow God’s Word. In our Gospel today we read of the beautiful story of the multiplication of loaves. Jesus, after healing the sick and performing numerous signs, sought respite on the mountain with his beloved disciples. However, the large crowds needed him. These individuals who were suffering from pain of the body, heart and spirit and, like the people of today, they needed the healing balm that only God can offer. So Jesus, after giving thanks, performed another great sign as he multiplied the five barley loaves and two fish into a bounty big enough to feed well over 5,000 of God’s broken children. On the surface this is profoundly beautiful; however, a deeper immersion into God’s Word will reveal mush more.
So why five loaves and two fish? Why in God’s Word today do we find such a precise set of numbers. A well-known saint, St. Anthony of Padua (perhaps you have called on him when you lost something), offers significant insight on this note. Using allegory to interpret the scripture (a technique frequently used by early bible scholars to reveal the hidden message in scripture) he shares with us that the five loaves represent the five “refreshments for the soul” – the five books of Moses. These are as follows: rebuking of sin by contrition; the baring of sin in confession; the abasement and humiliation in satisfaction (this points us to the fact that Christ’s death on the cross is all that is needed for our redemption); the zeal for souls in preaching; and the sweetness of contemplating our heavenly home. So much to ponder here. Those five loaves provided for much more than the physical needs of God’s children, this meal provided true spiritual food that would heal the brokenhearted. The two fish were brought up from the depths of the sea and represent Moses and Peter. Moses was taken from the waters and Peter was appointed from fisherman to Apostle. The Synagogue was entrusted to Moses and the Church was entrusted to Peter. The fish provided the leadership our spirits need so that we can properly orientate ourselves towards God. So beautiful and so rich. Now, I just shared a lot with you. Given this, I invite you to take a moment and reflect on what you just read before reading further…
So why did I offer this rather deep theological thought on today’s readings? The answer is rather simple. God is ever-present in our lives and he is always there for us, ready to meet us where we are in our relationship with him. By diving into God’s Word, Sacred Scripture, he will reveal himself to us and draw us deeper and deeper into relationship with him. Our early church leaders knew this well and they spent significant time meditating and reflecting on scripture, immersing themselves in God’s Word, all in an attempt to more fully deepen their relationship with our Lord.
Of course, today’s Gospel is not the first time we read of the beauty of God’s gift of bread to his children. In John today, we not only see the fulfilment of the Old Testament in the New Testament as St. Anthony so beautifully revealed, we also see a golden thread between Exodus and the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fish. In Exodus 16:15-18 Moses shares with the Israelites the bread that the Lord God has given them to eat.
That evening quail flew in and covered the camp and in the morning there was a layer of dew all over the camp. When the layer of dew had lifted, there on the wilderness ground was a fine flaky something, fine as frost on the ground. The Israelites took one look and said to one another, man-hu (What is it?). They had no idea what it was. So Moses told them, “It’s the bread God has given you to eat. And these are God’s instructions: ‘Gather enough for each person, about two quarts per person; gather enough for everyone in your tent.’” The People of Israel went to work and started gathering, some more, some less, but when they measured out what they had gathered, those who gathered more had no extra and those who gathered less weren’t short—each person had gathered as much as was needed.
– Exodus 16:15-18
There was precisely enough for everyone to eat – regardless of the amount each man gathered for his family. However, there is a significant difference between Exodus and today’s Gospel. In today’s Gospel we witness the abundance of Christ. There were leftovers – and plenty of them! The left over fragments were “more than they could eat.” The fragments reveal to us the excess Jesus provides for us in God’s new covenant with the Christians. Jesus Christ offers more than enough to heal and nourish us, more than enough for us to be happy and whole, and more than enough to cover our sins. As Christians we are blessed with this abundance of Christ’s divine mercy and love.
Turning to our first reading we witness Gamaliel, a well-respected Pharisee in the Sanhedrin, warning the rest of the Sanhedrin to be careful about their persecution of Jesus’ Apostles. Again, we witness a connection between the old and the new. Gamaliel, sharing a bit of history with the Sanhedrin, cautioned the others to have nothing to do with these men (the Apostles) and to let them go. Gamaliel even warned the Sanhedrin that if they chose to harm the Apostles this action could lead them into a battle against God himself! Study of history and God’s Word undoubtedly prompted Gamaliel to warn the Sanhedrin that things of human origin would end up destroying themselves, while things from God cannot be destroyed.
However, while the Sanhedrin chose to not put the Apostles to death, as they desired, they did have the Apostles flogged. Since these men were participating in God’s plan for humanity, this flogging only served to further energize the Apostles and more deeply fortify their determination to further preach and proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ. This in turn facilitated a greater increase in conversions to Christianity! God tried to warn the Sanhedrin; however, they could not fully hear his message and as a result he Apostles went forth to deliver more.
So what is our take away from God’s Word today? I believe the message is to immerse ourselves in Sacred Scripture because it is here where we will strengthen our relationship with him and it is here where we will more fully come to understand our role in his plan for our lives. Our early church leaders continually immersed themselves in God’s Word and I believe this is of utmost importance today.
Speaking of immersing ourselves in God’s Word – time for me to get to morning Mass! So goodbye for now my Catholic friends. I’ll meet you in the God’s Word.
I love you Jesus!
Today’s Readings: Acts 5:23-42; Psalm 27; John 6:1-15