In the Gospel reading for this Sunday there was a large crowd that had come to hear Jesus. Matthew writes that, “When evening came, the disciples went to Jesus and said “This is a lonely place, and the time has slipped by, so send the people away and they can go to the villages to buy themselves some food. Jesus might have then said, “Goodness,is that the time? You are right: let’s finish the teaching now so they can go and get something to eat.” What Jesus in fact said was: “There is no need for them to go. Give them something to eat yourselves.”
As we hear this familiar Gospel, Jesus is telling us that in his Church, there are people who are hungering for food that will last and we should not let them go elsewhere to satisfy their hunger because the Church has the food that satisfies. We have food that is good for all. It is our task to feed those who hunger.
There is an emotional and spiritual hunger in all people that so often they try to satisfy in places and ways that are not good for them. With what little the disciples found, five loaves and two fish, Jesus was able to feed five thousand men, not counting women and children.
John Milton in his poem Lycidas wrote:
“The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed,
But, swoll’n with wind and the rank mist they draw,
Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread;”
There is a great spiritual hunger in our world today and we, the Church, have the means of satisfying that hunger. We don’t do it alone. We are co-workers with Jesus who is the bread of life. This is the food that is free and given generously for anyone who wants it.
It is clear when we read this gospel alongside the first reading from Isaiah, that what God offers us is good things to eat and rich food; “pay attention and your soul will live.”
It is often said that on the sanctuary we have two tables, the Ambo which is the Table of the Word, and the Altar which is the table of the Eucharist. In the last four months we have had to fast from receiving Jesus, the Bread of Life, in Holy Communion, but we continue to be fed and nurtured by the daily offering of the Scriptures that we find in the Lectionary. All that is asked of us is an openness and eagerness to come, and let God feed us – thus our soul will live.
When Jesus told the crowds that his flesh is real food and his blood is real drink many walked away. Jesus turned to his disciples and asked if they too would go but Peter said, “to whom should we go? You have the worlds of eternal life.”