One of the best ways to enrich your experience at Sunday Mass is to pray the gospel reading personally. A great way of doing this is using the “Lectio Divina”; this is a powerful method which we explain here. The following is the Sunday gospel reading with a reflection that is especially aimed at youth.
We hope that it serves you in your personal prayer and that it serves as a resource that you can share with your apostolate.
Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God, and he healed those who needed to be cured. As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached him and said, “Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.” He said to them, “Give them some food yourselves.”
They replied, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.” Now the men there numbered about five thousand. Then he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty.”
They did so and made them all sit down. Then taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.
The Bible could be read as a lesson on how to eat well. In the beginning, we are offered a varied diet, but with an indispensable limitation: you may eat from all the trees except… But the limits and prohibitions stir up audacious fantasies. And often we’ve fallen victim to astute salesmen that show off their products in an irresistible way.
Hunger is an analogy for what we are: we are needy. No matter what we do, we have a void to be filled. A void that, in this life, can never be filled once and for all. We can never be self-sufficient, never satisfied. We are always seeking something that can meet the needs we feel.
When we’re hungry, we are driven to seek. We seek because we are afraid to die. It is true that when we no longer feel the desire to live, we stop searching. But it is also true that the stronger our fear of death is, the quicker we are to eat the first thing we come across, even if we know it will do us harm.
Our fear of starving to death is not easy to handle. But when we are filled with fear, it is Jesus that says, at the end of the Gospel, take, without restrictions, and eat. There is no need to go out looking for substitutes. There is no need to eat secretively: this is my body, this is the life you seeks, the only food that satiates your hunger.
This passage from Luke is a stage on the journey: like the Twelve, maybe we have also always thought that food is bought and sold. We’re convinced that love is earned and exchanged; that he who does not affirm himself, loses. The Twelve suggest that Jesus let the people go buy bread. Jesus changes the verb: it’s no longer to buy but to give. Life is given and received, not bought or sold.
Changing this verb means changing the dynamics of history. Jacob had sent his sons to Egypt to buy grain because there was a famine in their country. But the sons of Jacob, as they think they are going to buy bread, they are actually going to find their brother, Joseph, whom they had sold. Reconciliation is only achieved by abandoning the logic of the marketplace.
It’s not easy to change this verb because we are so worried about satiating our hunger: I’ll eat in the meantime…; otherwise what will be left for me?
The Twelve don’t have the courage to tell Jesus that they have only thought of themselves: five plus two is the symbolic seven that satiates, the fullness that reassures them. And they want to be alone so they can eat. It’s their right. Everyone else is on their own.
When you are in the middle of the desert and it’s getting late, the fear of death returns. The first thought to pass through your mind is survival. These are the times in life when you feel lost and seek a security. When things work out, we forget our hunger, but sooner or later it returns and our helplessness becomes unbearable.
If hunger is a metaphor for our neediness, the way we feed ourselves is a metaphor for our relationship with the world: there are those who only think of their own hunger; there are those who devour everything in sight; there are those who always look at the plate of their neighbor; there are those who refuse to eat.
In this sense, the passage from Luke is a phase in this education of how to eat: first we are instructed to sit down. One does not eat in a hurry like the night of Passover in Egypt because we are no longer slaves to our fear of death. We no longer have to flee or go out looking for food. We can be at peace because the food that appeases our hunger is here with us.
The people don’t know where this food comes from; only the Twelve know. Life is. It is freely, undeservedly given. We receive it and that’s it. And Luke, without much emphasis on the matter, changes the terms on us: it is not the Twelve who distribute the bread and fish, but the disciples: all of us from that point on. We are the ones that allow life to pass through. And unlike the verbs that describe Jesus’ prayer, which indicate an action that happens once and always remains (aorist), the verb to give is in its imperfect form in the Greek, meaning that from that moment on the disciples have been distributing the bread and fish.
this passage from Luke, in which Jesus multiplies the bread and the fish, encloses two different questions about Jesus himself. First we have the horrified curiosity of Herod: who is he that does such things? While after the distribution of the bread and the fish we find the question that Jesus asks Peter and his companions: you, who do you say that I am?
Finding that which fills your deepest hunger is to discover the answer to this question.
– What do you truly hunger for at this point in your life?
– How do you try to satiate your hunger?
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