Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.
When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”
And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Today’s gospel is very familiar, but a detail I’d never noticed jumped out at me upon deeper reflection: The feeding of the 5,000 men (and perhaps up to 30,000 people total when women and children are included) occurs soon after Jesus learns of John the Baptist’s death. Although he was probably not surprised by John’s death, hearing of it and the manner in which it happened, must have been a profoundly moving loss for Jesus.
We learn that Jesus’ reaction to the news was to withdraw in solitude. We don’t know how long he was gone or what, specifically, he did when alone. What we do know is that his time away, then and throughout his life, played a significant part in how he was able to minister to others.
In the midst of his grief and initial desire to be alone, thousands of people seek Jesus out, and Jesus responds with compassion. He responds by healing them. Meanwhile, his disciples response to the crowd was to insist that these people go out and meet their own basic needs, get their own food. But Jesus invites his disciples to minister to those in need through the gifts and resources they already possessed. In the end, these things would turn out to be sufficient.
How do you “recharge” yourself with God’s grace so you can meet and minister to others? How often do you use solitude and silence? How do you react to those who need something from you when you seem to have spent it all? What experiences do you have of your gifts and resources being sufficient?
–Elizabeth Collier has degrees from three different Jesuit universities, including a PhD in Christian Ethics from Loyola University Chicago. She teaches at Dominican University in River Forest, IL.
As you give yourself to us, as you share our journey, as you become the food that sustains our lives, even when the road gets rough and obstacles slow our steps, help us to follow your path of service, sharing and giving. Help us give what little we have, what little we are, so that we can become a treasure to others through the power of God, who is Love that descends to our poverty and transforms it.
–Adapted from Pope Francis’ homily on the Feast of Corpus Christi, May 2013