The story of the feeding of the 5000 is the only miracle that appears in all four Gospels. In Matthew and Mark there are additional accounts of feeding 4000 people. In all accounts, the disciples query how the crowds could be fed with the small amount of food provided. In some accounts, as in today’s gospel, the disciples wanted to send the people away to take care of their own food.
In the Gospel stories of ‘multiplication’ Jesus’ response is not only an act of compassion but it is primarily a revelation of the nature of divine compassion. He wants to create a new understanding of ‘enoughness’, of more than ‘enoughness’- as we see in the twelve baskets left over. The human mind is actually incapable of imagining anything infinite or eternal. So it cannot conceive an infinite love or a God whose mercy and compassion is everlasting. Every multiplication story emphasises abundance, that there is always much left over. It is a major mental and heart conversion to move from a scarcity model to an abundance model and to live with an attitude of gratitude. Our little tiny lives are connected with something bigger, something that matters, something eternal. Suddenly our ordinary lives have a transcendent and universal meaning. Whether we realise it or not, that is the hunger and thirst within each one of us.
Like the disciples, we count what is there though we too often focus on what is not there. And pretty soon the reality of our circumstances blinds us to the possibilities of what might be. Our vision becomes narrow and the world small. We see through the lens of scarcity or lack and not through the lens of abundance. The problem is not a lack of fish and bread but a lack of vision. We see things not as they are, but as we are. The abundance of God’s loving presence is hidden in plain view and often within the illusion of scarcity. Abundance is less a resource to be counted and more an interior quality, a presence, a way of being and seeing.
Gospel Matthew 14:13-21
When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” Then he said, “Bring them here to me,” and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over — twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.