The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes by Lambert Lombard, 1505–1566

God's word on Sunday: Miracles happen with total trust in God

  • July 28, 2018

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 29 (Year B) 2 Kings 4:42-44; Psalm 145; Ephesians 4:1-6; John 6:1-15

What do the Internet and the Bible have in common? In one word, interconnectedness. 

We are all familiar with hypertext — we use it every day. When we click on a link, it takes us to another place separate in time and space. In a similar fashion, whenever we “click” on an incident or story in either testament, we are taken elsewhere, perhaps to several places. 

In the first couple of centuries of our era, there were some who rejected the Old Testament entirely, declaring that it had no connection with the New Testament. The Church fathers insisted wisely that both testaments must be read together as one continuous narrative. 

The entire Bible is a symphonic variation on a few basic themes and stories. The story of the miraculous feeding in 2 Kings is a perfect example. 

The man bringing the first fruits of the harvest to Elisha the prophet was a bit dismayed when Elisha told him to distribute the food to the people. He couldn’t understand how such a meagre amount of food could feed over 100 people. 

From a human standpoint, it was impossible, but this was not a story of human efforts or achievements. Elisha assured him the Lord had promised they would eat and have some left, and that is exactly what happened. The word of the Lord rang true and was fulfilled. 

The sacred hypertext in this story carries us to four different miraculous feedings in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and to chapter 6 of the Gospel of John. In those accounts, dismay was expressed at how little food is available, but assurance is given and all were able to eat with some left over. 

There were also echoes of the many times in Exodus and Numbers that God provided food for the Israelites. The story is about the compassion, providence and faithfulness of God. When we truly believe God, rather than merely believe in God, we trust totally and that is when miracles take place.

As a prisoner, Paul had a lot of time to pray and reflect. He may have even been assailed by fears and doubts. He longed to encourage people with what he considered to be the most important life principles. Humility, gentleness, patience and love were at the top of the list, with unity as the capstone. 

Unity had been an obsession of Paul’s because of its lack in places like Corinth. He recognized that divisions, factions and competition could destroy the spiritual well-being and effectiveness of any community, especially one claiming to belong to the body of Christ. One can only wonder what Paul would make of the world’s disunity and lack of love and patience today.

John’s account of the miraculous feeding resonates with the Elisha story. Once again, there was a crowd in need of food. The command of Jesus to Philip to feed them was also met with skepticism and dismay. How can so many people be fed with such a small amount of food? They had only five loaves and two fish. 

Rather than focusing on lack, Jesus took what was offered and gave thanks. 

Echoing the desert journey in Exodus and Numbers, God provided abundant sustenance for the people of God, enough for everyone to be satisfied. In John’s hyper-symbolic Gospel, the 12 baskets of leftover fragments signified the 12 tribes of Israel. The intent to gather all the fragments so that nothing may be lost referred to the ingathering of scattered souls at the turn of the ages. 

The mission of Jesus was gathering, seeking out the lost and restoration. All of this was lost on the crowd — they were dazzled by the display of power and wanted to make Jesus a king. This was not part of His mission and Jesus made a hasty exit. 

Learning trust is difficult for humans but learn it we must. So much of human competition, aggression and violence is based on our fear of exclusion, lack or not having enough. 

God is abundant, compassionate and faithful. Let us live as if we truly believe this. Our world will be very different. 

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