Sixth Sunday After Pentecost – The Feeding of Five Thousand
GOSPEL. Mark viii. 1-9. At that time, when there was a great multitude with Jesus, and they had nothing to eat, calling his disciples together, he saith to them: I have compassion on the multitude: for behold they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat. And if I shall send them away fasting to their home, they will faint in the way: for some of them came from afar off. And his disciples answered him: From whence can anyone fill them here with bread in the wilderness? And he asked them: How many loaves have ye? who said: Seven, and he commanded the multitude to sit down upon the ground. And taking the seven loaves, giving thanks, he broke, and gave to his disciples to set before them, and they set them before the people. And they had a few little fishes, and he blessed them, and commanded them to be set before them. And they did eat and were filled, and they took up that which was left of the fragments, seven baskets. And they that had eaten were about four thousand : and he sent them away.
Our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ came down from heaven to take upon Himself our human nature through the motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary for our salvation and to take away our sins. For thirty-three years He prepared Himself for this mission, in silence, prayer, and retirement, in order to preach the glad tidings of the Gospel. As He travelled through the land of Judea, He was always attended by crowds of people, who were attracted by His goodness, His doctrine, and His grace. He healed all manner of sickness, He caused the blind to see, the deaf to hear; the dumb came to Him, and He bade them speak, and their tongues were loosed; the dead were raised to life, and many other things did this great wonder-worker perform in that little country of Judea.
So great was the eagerness with which the people followed Our Lord, that they forgot everything, their food, their rest, and their business, in listening to His eloquence. They for got to go to their homes, so great was their desire to be instructed by the Saviour. This should be a lesson to us: showing us how we should seek the word of God and listen to it with avidity. But of this I have spoken before: let me now merely remind you that the food of the soul is the word of God; that unless we give it this food the soul will lose its vigor and fall into a mortal sickness. How many are there who are already stricken with this death, and do not know their unhappy state. As Isaias says: “There are those who call evil good, and good, evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. “There are some who make a boast of not having heard the word of God for many years. What blindness to boast of this! We hear sermons rarely enough; and when we do hear them, are we attentive? We never learn without attention. The Emperor Constantine had such respect for the word of God that he listened to it standing, and when asked to sit down, he said that holy things should be listened to standing, as did the first Christians in the ages of fervor. Those who will not listen to the word of God with respect and attention are judged by the words of Our Lord Himself, “My brethren are they who hear the word of God.”
Our Lord saw this great multitude patiently following Him. He approved of their great desire to hear Him, and calling His disciples together He said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with Me now three days, and have not what to eat, and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint on the way.” Such is the tender heart of Our Lord: not only will He reward fidelity to Him in the next world, but even in this. Hold to Our Lord, therefore, with all faith and confidence. David, the prophet king, cries out, “I have been young, and now am old, and I have not seen the just forsaken nor his seed seeking bread.” Fear then the Lord; live good lives, be obedient to His laws, and you will want for nothing.
This beautiful lesson the elder Tobias impressed on the mind of his son. One day he called him and said: “Fear not my son: we lead indeed a poor life, but we shall have many good things if we fear God, and depart from all sin, and do that which is good.” Tobias and the Jews were in exile and captivity, were dependent slaves to cruel masters, and still he had such unswerving faith in the goodness of God that not with one word did he complain of that providence that ordered things in this way. And even in a worldly sense this confidence was not disappointed; for an angel became his son’s conductor to a far off country, where he was happily married and received a large sum of money for the relief of his necessities.
Our Lord in the tenderness of His heart asked how many loaves of bread there were. A few fishes and seven loaves were all that could be collected. Then He made them sit down on the grass, blessed the loaves, and the disciples distributed them. They multiplied in such a manner in their hands that all had more than enough, and seven baskets were gathered of the fragments. Did you ever, my dear young friends, reflect that this miracle is repeated at all times in this world by almighty God? When the farmer takes the little seed and places it in the ground, it comes up and multiplies a hundredfold in the crop that is gathered in, and many millions of people are fed by it. This multiplication is not only seen in the seed of the field, but in the multiplication of fishes, of animals, and of men. Of these things we do not take much notice, they are in the ordinary course of the things of this world; but they are not the less wonderful. Be grateful to God for all this, look up to Him, and thank Him for the abundance He has bestowed on us. Consider, too, the innumerable graces that God has been pleased to send us without ceasing; consider the light He pours in upon our souls, the inspirations to our minds; the helps for our spiritual life; the Sacraments, fountains of all blessings, by which He feeds the soul, and especially His sacred body and blood, which is intended by Him as the great food of the soul.
St. Teresa, reflecting on the great benefits Our Lord be stows on man, especially in the sacrament of His divine love, the Holy Eucharist, says, “If you give a bone, which is no longer wanted, to a dog, he will show by his joyful leaps and the wagging of his tail how glad he is for the gift.” How grateful should man, then, show himself for God’s wonderful kindnesses! Impress deeply on your minds, my dear young people, the gratitude you ought to show to almighty God, and use every means to glorify His goodness.
Once, in the amphitheatre of Rome, a slave was to be torn by a hungry and ferocious lion; when the unfortunate man was placed in the arena, the lion bounded toward him, as if to tear him to pieces. But instead of killing him, the beast crouched down before him, and acted in the most friendly way, because at one time the poor slave had taken a thorn from its paw, and the lion recognized its friend. Tremendous was the applause at this fortunate recognition, and the slave’s life was spared. You, having reason, and knowing from whom all good gifts come, show your gratitude like rational beings. God has given you life, has preserved it, has given you health and vigor; He continually protects you from the many enemies that are threatening you, especially the devil. What has not almighty God done? You ought to open your eyes and consider yourselves the happiest youths in the world, for all the benefits you are enjoying through His goodness, and of which so many others are deprived. You will acknowledge the goodness of God at the judgment seat. God is like a good king, who took his favorite out of the midst of destruction, and put him in a safe place, whence he could see all, and where he would have him acknowledge that his fate would have been similar had the king permitted him to remain with the other’s. You will see the millions of wicked sent to hell, while you are going to heaven; by the mercy of God, you have been preserved and placed in safety, where the fire of hell cannot touch you.
Then, indeed, and for all eternity, you will raise your voice in thanksgiving for His interposition in your behalf, “when you shall see the sinner perish.”