The incident from our First Reading from the Book of Kings is a clear and very early foreshadowing of the Eucharist. Eucharist comes from the Greek and means ‘give thanks’. The man bearing the bread comes from the town Baal-shalishah, named after a pagan god but he gives his first fruits to the true God by handing them to Elisha, “the man of God”. The normal procedure at the time would have been for the first fruits to be offered in the shrine and then afterwards consumed by the priests. But here Elisha breaks with this longstanding custom and gives the bread to the people to eat. And miraculously the small amount of bread is shared out among a hundred men who all had their fill and more.
We have heard the story about the miracle of feeding thousands from five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish many times. Actually stories about multiplication of food exist six times in the New Testament. Mathew and Mark are so fascinated that each one has two stories. This week we read from John, who like Luke tells just one scene of what some scholars say must have been the feeding of over fifteen thousand people. John lays himself open to the charge of being somewhat of a chauvinist. He obviously did not think women were important enough to mention, when he speaks about five thousand men. But even then women were not about to let husbands wander by themselves over the countryside. So, one can be certain there were women and children in attendance. That is how some scholars speak of fifteen thousand. One child in particular plays a key role in the unfolding of the story. This one boy finds Andrew and probably shouts to him, "Hey, mister, come here." He rips out of his pockets five thoroughly squashed slices of bread and two suspicious looking fish. This was to be the boy's own lunch. Let us note here that the kid was giving not out of his surplus but all he had. Andrew
not wanting to hurt the boy's feelings takes the unattractive morsels over to Christ. To the boy's mortification, the mob may have laughed up a storm at him. But not so the Christ! He accepts the boy's gifts with proper ceremony and gratitude. Gives thanks (Eucharist) and invites His guests to draw up a seat on the grass. Only that kid may have remained on his feet. The boy’s eyes, large as dinner plates, wondering what this strange Man with the massive hands was going to do with his lunch. The Master tells His people to share the boy's gifts among the humungous crowd. They look in disbelief at the soggy pieces of bread and convincingly dead fish. They ask, "Master, are you kidding us?"
Like watching a magician I have often been mesmerized by the miracle and carried away in trying to figure out, how He does it? … and I could write a whole essay about several potential engineering, social and psychological solutions to the quiz… but this time around I suddenly realized that if we look at the story from anyone in the crowd of followers, we realize that Jesus takes care of every one. “Follow Jesus and he will take care of you” is the message I take with me into this coming week. No clue how He does it, but no one is left hungry. The gospel writers make the point of the twelve baskets of remaining food, after everybody had their fill, to reassure us that nobody is left unfed. This time I will personally give up on trying to figure out the mechanics of the miracle of multiplication of loaves and fish, but stay intensely focused on the great benefits of followership: Jesus does take care of those who follow him!
The complete text of the readings can be found at http://scriptures-my-journey-oflife-andfaith.blogspot.com/2009/07/seventeenth-sunday-in-ordinary-time.html
With God’s Love and Blessings,
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