This is the year of St. Mark and on most Sundays, especially in ordinary time our gospel reading will come from the writing of St. Mark. Every third year, however, we take a break from the gospel of Mark and we turn to the writing of St. John’s gospel and specifically the 6th chapter of his gospel often referred to as the Discourse on the theme of the Bread of Life. Today we begin with these several weeks of John’s gospel and the church places before us this very beautiful teaching about the Eucharist, but it begins with the very familiar account of Jesus meeting the need of a very large crowd that has come to listen to his wisdom and witness his gift of healing for so many.
We begin with the opening verses of the 6th chapter of St. John’s gospel with a story that I think we always look forward to hearing; it is a touching account of Jesus’ compassion for his people. People have journeyed from different towns and villages and come out to a hillside to listen once again to the words Jesus will impart to them. After listening for some time Jesus looks at the crowd and sees their hunger. He turns to the apostle Philip and asks, “where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
Philip’s natural response is that even with many days wages we could not buy enough food to feed so many, but Jesus will not turn the crowd away, He knows what He can do to satisfy their natural hunger. It is at this point that Jesus has the people sit on the hillside. He takes a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, blesses them, and distributes the food. Miraculously there is not only enough to feed the people. After they have all eaten, they gather up the food left over and there is more than what they started with.
A miracle to satisfy the natural hunger of those who have been with him for many hours. Right here there is our first lesson. There is hunger everywhere. Jesus satisfied this natural hunger and the lesson for us to reflect on is that we need to see the hunger in our world and share what we have to satisfy that hunger. We may not have the power to work miracles as Jesus did but by seeing the hunger around us and sharing what we have to feed the hungry, we are helping to show our compassion for others by simply sharing our food with them.
Beyond that Jesus will reveal to us, once again, that He is the Bread of Life and whoever come to Him and feeds on this heavenly bread will live forever. We may still feel that natural hunger that needs to be satisfied but all the more we shall hunger for the Bread that only Jesus gives that will nourish our heart and soul, strengthening us as we make our journey to the kingdom of heaven.
When we hear how John has described this teaching of Jesus we need to take time to reflect more and more on how precious and life giving this gift truly is. There is no greater gift than the perfect gift of Jesus sharing his very life with us in so intimate a manner. Let us rejoice and give thanks to the Lord who loves us so much.