We all know the story of the feeding of the five thousand. It is an event in the life of Jesus we know from our childhood. Jesus takes the five loaves and two fish, and wondrously, miraculously, five thousand people have had more than enough, and twelve baskets of food that was not eaten remain left over.
The twelve baskets are a sign that when we call on God’s generosity, we always receive more than enough. God’s grace always exhausts our needs. We end up not simply satisfied but satiated.
But why does God act like this? Earlier in the miracle story we hear that Jesus “took pity on the crowd”. In fact, “took pity” is a rather weak way of describing what Matthew wrote in the Greek text. He said that Jesus literally had a feeling in the pit of his stomach, in his very guts, when he saw the plight of the crowd. It’s the same sensation we have when perhaps we see news footage of a famine or a civil war or needless suffering, we instinctively want to do something.
It is because our God is capable of that feeling in the pit of the stomach, that twelve baskets are left over. God is almost generous to a fault, but with a loving kindness that is never wasted. He does not simply provide enough for the crowds – but when they are satisfied, twelve baskets full of scraps are left over.
We are also aware of a sense of premonition – looking ahead to another breaking of bread on the eve of His Passion – another gesture of love and compassion for those who would not understand what was happening. A gesture of love and compassion which has comforted and strengthened countless millions through the ages…the Eucharist.
The disciples could not believe that Jesus could provide so much from so little – and yet, there it was before their eyes. They were learning a lesson in the art of Kingdom living – Jesus takes our little, blesses it – and produces fruit beyond anything we could have imagined. In a few moments, we shall take the bread and wine that Jesus gives to us…we shall give it back to the Lord, together with our self-offering…but this God of abundance returns it to us again, giving it to us as his very body and blood, not simply for our bodily nourishment but food to strengthen us for mission and food for our souls on our journey to heaven.
During Holy Communion we will hear the beautiful anthem sung, ‘ O Sacrum Convivium’:
O sacred banquet!
in which Christ is received,
the memory of his Passion is renewed,
the mind is filled with grace,
and a pledge of future glory to us is given.
May that be our prayer in our Mass this morning as we give thanks for God’s wonderful abundance.