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A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Gospel Matthew 14:13-21
When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.
The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the
vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already
late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves. ” Jesus said to
them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves. ” But they said to him, “Five
loaves and two fish are all we have here. ” Then he said, “Bring them here to me, ” and he ordered the
crowds to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and
they picked up the fragments left over – twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand
men, not counting women and children.


Many of us will readily recall the images on our TV screens of the devastating famine in Ethiopia in the 1980s. The BBC reporter, Michael Buerk, described the horror enfolding as far as the eye could see over a parched land, amid scenes of death and dying all around. Later, through massive fund raising, planes flew over the famine stricken area with enough food for tens of thousands of hungry people. Slogans from the Aid Agencies announced that it took only $15 to feed a child for a month and pleaded for donations – now. It reminds us of what people will say to Jesus at the Last Judgement, ‘When Lord will we see you hungry and feed you? The king will reply, ‘I tell you, whenever you do this for the least important of these, you did it for me’ (Matt. 25).
Repeated six times in the four Gospels, the feeding of the multitude attests to the fact that Jesus met people’s real needs. He fed the multitude not with metaphors but with food, not with resolutions and commissions but with so much bread and fish that there was an abundance left over. Jesus met their physical needs in a generous moment, so that having their physical hunger satisfied he could then address the hunger of their hearts. Through his action, Jesus acknowledged that there is a real connection between the hunger of the body and the hunger of the soul. Both the physical and spiritual needs are God’s concern.
In our first reading (Isaiah 55: 1-3) Isaiah, speaking for God, invites the poor to come, eat, drink and be satisfied. Only after their physical hunger has been addressed are they assured of God’s protection and presence forever. The land of God’s promise was always described in terms of food, the manna in the desert, quail and water from the rock that sustained the desert wanderers in their pursuit of a land of milk and honey. The evangelists recognized Jesus and his desire to feed the hungers of others as Wisdommade flesh. In that capacity, Jesus fed us through the bread of his teaching and ultimately through the gift of himself as the Living Bread in the Eucharist. The weekly Eucharist challenges all who are fed to give not only of their surplus but also of their substance to feed the hungry of the world, ‘our daily bread’. Mother Teresa said that ‘we have only today to make Jesus known, loved, fed, clothed, sheltered. The hungry Christ comes to us in distressing disguise. Do not wait for tomorrow’.

Kevin Lyon
Archdeacon of Glendalough


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