The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.
Reflection: The account of Jesus feeding a crowd of 5000 people is in all four gospels, in addition to the story in Mark of him feeding the 4000. This repetition makes it clear that Jesus’ ministry was about caring for people’s needs, including feeding the hungry. Jesus’ words, “give them something to eat yourselves” … “give them something to eat yourselves” … “give them something to eat yourselves” echo through Matthew, Mark and Luke, giving the disciples both a challenge and a vote of confidence. Jesus is giving them a job, but he is also affirming that they have something worth giving. In Matthew the disciples say “We have nothing here except…” In Luke they respond “All we have are …” and in John they are even more pessimistic: “…what does that amount to for so many?”
The number of people experiencing food insecurity can feel as overwhelming as trying to feed a crowd of thousands with a few loaves and fishes. But what do we have? I thought of this story recently when I learned from a Bread for the World webinar that one of the most effective tools for supporting legislation to help decrease hunger is hand-written notes to legislators. Together, our collective letters could be the loaves and fishes that feed thousands.
Prayer: God of compassion, may we follow your example by giving thanks for the gifts and resources you have given us, and in sharing them with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
-Pastoral Intern Kristen Schmid