1st rdg 2 Kgs 4:42-2-44 they ate and had some left
psalm 145 the hand of the Lord feeds us, he answers all our needs
2nd rdg Eph 4:1-6 unity of the Spirit / 1 Lord, 1 faith, 1 baptism
gospel Jn 6:1-5 Jesus feeds 5,000 with 5 loaves & 2 fish / 12 baskets
Jesus feeds 5,000 with five barley loaves and two fish made available through a young boy’s willingness to share. The generosity of God is embodied, made manifest in the person of Jesus. And we are clearly invited to appreciate the abundance of God’s compassionate magnanimity as we are told there were twelve baskets of leftovers after each person’s hunger was satisfied. Marvelous as this moment in Jesus’ ministry is, the event is engaging us in an appreciation of a deeper reality.
The occasion of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes could stand alone as a miraculous occurrence. Precisely here do we grasp a sacramental character to the scene described in the gospel. The event itself is wonderful but it points us further, beyond itself. A sacrament points us beyond itself to a reality God wants to share with us. Most of us are aware of the Olympics taking place in London. Athletes rigorously prepare for a long time seeking to be recognized for their ability. They compete to exhibit a skill and to be found as the best in their particular field. Jesus, however, does not act to be recognized, but out of compassion, out of love, a divine love. The gospels help us to see all too clearly where the attention for such acts brings Jesus. Those who see themselves in competition with him grow envious and angry. For them, he will have to die.
Perhaps this is why the church offers us this wonderful passage from Saint Paul for our second reading. This passage is about living our calling – our vocation – about responding to God’s initiative. (Read that both individually and collectively.) The distinction between a career and a vocation is an important one. Paul is exhorting us to live the vocation that is our proper response to God’s invitation. Our career, our job, our profession may be a part of that. But one’s vocation is much larger. God brings all of creation into existence out of love and expressly to love this very creation. We need to see the essential harmony and unity of everything that exists by way of its having its existence because God brought it about. The unity and harmony of God’s creative impulse is better explained by theologians who are more competent than I am. But this unity in all of God’s creation is an important vantage point from which to exercise our faith. (And I do mean exercise, practice, be deliberate about living.) So often today we hear that unity is not uniformity and authors acknowledge that God gives us our differences – the diversity we see so easily all around us. This in some ways is the challenge. It’s not simply asking what did we get or what do we have. The question is what do we do with what we have? In writing to the people of God in Ephesus, Paul says: “Take every care to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together.” And so I ask: “Am I trying to preserve the unity God established? Is my fierce need for autonomy, for independence, to protect my wants, in some way a movement against the order of things as God has set them in motion?” Living spiritual lives can turn things upside down or inside out and we may not like it. But we do need to ask whether or not we are striving to live at one with God and in God’s way. Paul goes on: “There is one Body, one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal of your calling by God. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all who is over all, through all and within all.” The center is God in whom all things have their beginning. In God we live and move and have our being.
I suggest that we need to reflect on the unity of the Trinity, evident in our gospel today. The unity of the Father, Son and Spirit is manifest in the feeding of so many in the gospel. Jesus is at work fulfilling the will of the Father, caring for God’s poor ones. His giving of physical food also imparts a lasting after effect. This is what Jesus does after the resurrection in giving us his Spirit. And it is much more important than the leftover bread and fish in the hampers folks carried away. They are – as we who have come together here are – fed with God’s love. It is entrusted to us to be taken away and given away. There is a call to live in Jesus’ Spirit as he nourishes us with himself.
The first reading is beautifully direct as it tells us to give what we are given to the people and there will be enough. It is the perfect parallel to the gospel and emphasizes that other dimension of our call – to live as God directs us. We are called with Jesus to be obedient to the Father.
Fed in word and sacrament, entrusted with Jesus’ Spirit, his love and his mission, may we live the faith to which we are called in the generous love of our God. Like the boy we are being invited to share. However it is not to simply our stuff, our things. We are called to share our true selves, our godliness, the God who has come to dwell with and within us.