Year B, The 17th Sunday Ordinary Time

Where Can We Buy Bread for the People?

July 30, 2000


Ronald D. Curley

TEXT: The Holy Gospel According to Saint John 6:1-15

1 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberi-as.

2 And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs, which he did on those who were diseased.

After what? It is important that we briefly study the background passage (the context) to this event dealing with the Bread and the multitudes.

Cf. John 5:46-54-

46 So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Caperna-um there was an official whose son was ill.

47 When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.

48 Jesus therefore said to him, "Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe."

49 The official said to him, "Sir, come down before my child dies."

50 Jesus said to him, "Go; your son will live." The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went his way.

51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was living.

52 So he asked them the hour when he began to mend, and they said to him, "Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him."

53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live"; and he himself believed, and all his household.

54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.

We must recall that it way Mary who had interacted with Jesus at the wedding at Cana of Galilee. John speaks again, importantly, that this was the place where Jesus had made the water wine.

Now, at Caperna-um there was an official's son who was ill... Jesus responded to this man's faith -- The official said to him, "Sir, come down before my child dies." Jesus said to him, "Go; your son will live." The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went his way.

Here was the water made wine and the manifestation of the faith of an official who desired that his son be healed at the hand of Jesus. This sets the stage for the next great event in the narrative of St. John in revealing to you and me the Precious Body and Blood of Jesus, our Lord and Savior!

And, just in case we do not understand this, St. John gives us a clue that cannot be mistaken. He places all of these events in the context of the Passover, the very Jewish Feast that falls in the midst of Unleavened Bread and First fruits, three feasts in a row (in a single week).

Jesus is our Unleavened Bread, our Passover, and, our First fruits!

More about the context -

Then, also, John 5:43-47 provides the context of Jesus proclaiming his identity to the Jewish leaders saying -

43 I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.

44 How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; it is Moses who accuses you, on whom you set your hope.

46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me.

47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?"

Many only believed because they saw signs and wonders. "Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe."

How true this is for people.

Beloved, it is our desire to come to that place where we have no access to visible signs and wonders, but simply have faith... complete trust in Jesus... in God alone.

So, now, St. John proclaims for us this important story --

3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with his disciples.

4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.

5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, "How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?"

We marvel at the grace of God in asking the questions we do not think to ask for ourselves. Jesus asks Philip -- "How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?" The disciples should have asks this of Jesus. But, Jesus asks Philip. This is the same Philip that would proclaim the Bread of Life to the Ethiopian eunuch and would baptize him in the nearest water.

The multitude was coming to Jesus. Thanks be to God. It still comes according to the calling of God to all peoples!

How often, when Jesus asks this question do we respond, as did Philip? Jesus tests our understanding...

6 This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.

7 Philip answered him, "Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little."

Ah, as I prepare this simple reflection, we have been preparing bread here at the Saint Anthony's Retreat House. Our little Community bakes Bread, wheat bread, we call, "Saint Anthony's Bread" We do not produce a lot of this bread. But, should someone come to visit us, we like to share this bread with them and set before our guests a little wine and bread to remind us all of the Body and the Blood of our Precious Lord Jesus Christ!

We are like St. Andrew's comment at the hermitage...

8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him,

9 "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?"

We have a few fish in the freezer and some bread... But, beloved of God - if these are in the hands of Jesus - that is all that is necessary.

Little is a lot when Jesus handles it and blesses it!

A meager amount is a banquet with Jesus in charge!

Praise be to God alone... this is the Creator and Sustainer of the whole Universe, the Word of God - is anything to difficult for God?

No, little is enough for starters...

So, the Bread of Life who turned the water into Wine, our Great High Priest, now has the people sit down... there 5000 men.

10 Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand.

11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.

What Glory... this event. We also have no money to buy this kind of Bread, beloved.

But, God abundantly gives, gives, gives and gives more and more... Grace is constantly pressed down...Overflowing!

He leads us beside the still waters to the green pastures - and sitting us down on the grass like the sheep we are of his pasture, he gives us Bread and fish.

Fish --

One cannot help but remember the early Christian sign of the Fish. The sign of the fish (Greek - "ichthus') is translated -- "Jesus Christ Son of God, Savior"

Peter was a fisherman.

Our own Brother Martin Andrew (Brother Caretaker) of our Community of Saint Anthony of Padua fishes for us and brings many fish back to the Community for us all to eat, as we think of Jesus' feeding of the 5000 men (plus women and children) that day.

We cannot help but remember the story of Saint Anthony preaching to the fishes and their attentiveness to that saint. May we, as God's catches become as attentive of these fish and become "bread" for others in the salvation of souls for God alone... like Jesus, little fishes have their place in God's economy.

Bread --

But, it is the BREAD that is our focus.

Here the Bread is broken with the fishes and there is multiplied a great FEAST for the Glory of God and it is near Passover and also close the other Feasts of Unleavened Bread and the First fruits... feasts which speak of the passion, death and the resurrection of our Savior.

In these celebrations of Passover, Unleavened Bread and First fruits - Bread plays the important role... Jesus identifies with these feasts... Thus, these feasts speak of our Bread...

This Bread remains with us (Cf. Luke 24)

How SATISFYING is this meal that God prepares!

12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost."

13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten.

We are thrilled with the possibilities surrounding these TWELVE baskets of fragments.

Jesus begins with a little and creates Twelve baskets of remaining Bread and Fishes... note the similarity in the number of the apostles, some of whom have been mentioned by John...

The people understood they had been filled and that they were hungry before they were filled.

14 When the people saw the sign, which he had done, they said, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!"


Like in John implies from the very beginning... "Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe," Jesus knows the hearts of men everywhere. He does not need for us to prove him to be who he is... the very Word of God. He can proclaim this by his very acts and Essence!

True, we are witnesses for Christ. But, he does not need us to establish his authority.

15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

We are also called to withdraw ourselves from the world's attachments and come to that mountain with Jesus by himself.

For many years there were some of us who were drawn to the world. The world wanted to make us "great rulers" of this age. Like the testing of Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus, the Son of God, again avoids the world's attachments and follows the perfect plan of God the Holy Trinity.

Note that he goes to the mountain by himself.

It is there that you and I, beloved, discover our relationship with God alone in the place the Woman flees to (Revelation 12). There we go to that place prepared by God and seek perfect union with God alone.

There our Bread is seen in preparation for the perfect Sacrifice to come.

May we be so with Jesus?

Deus et Sanctissima.

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