My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!
Today’s Gospel relates that, after hearing of the death of Saint John the Baptist, our Lord departs into a “desert place.”
Even so, the disciples and the people did not withdraw from Him, but rather followed Him with great love and faith. And because the people showed such faith and followed the Lord even into the desert, they received the reward of their faith, as the Lord healed those among them who were sick or infirm. In recent weeks we have seen how those who approach the Lord in faith have received miraculous healings, which were all done, as the Lord Himself said, “according to their faith.” So it is today.
The Gospel then tells us: when it was evening, [the Lord’s] disciples came to Him, saying: This is a desert place, and the hour is now past: send away the multitudes, that going into the towns, they may buy themselves victuals.
But Jesus said to them: They have no need to go, give you them to eat. They answered Him: We have not here, but five loaves, and two fishes. He said to them: Bring them hither to Me. And when He had commanded the multitudes to sit down upon the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed [them].
[He] brake, and gave the loaves to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitudes. And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up what remained, twelve full baskets of fragments. And the number of them that did eat, was five thousand men, besides women and children.
Our Lord desired to feed the multitude, but He waited for others to give Him the occasion. Since the disciples were concerned and were seeking food for the people, our Lord said to them, Give you them to eat. The Lord, of course, was fully aware of how little the Apostles had to offer – five loaves and two fishes. But He asks that this little be brought forward so that He might work a miracle out of what was offered before Him. It was a miracle in which the Apostles, and indeed the entire multitude, co-operated with the Lord. They were a necessary part of it.
Our Lord did not simply materialize foods in front of the multitude. Rather, He commands the disciples to give food to the multitude, so that the miracle might be effected by service. And when the disciples offered before Him their insufficiency, the Lord by His divine power miraculously filled up all that was lacking.
Haven’t we seen this in the Gospels of recent weeks, as well? Our Lord has been working great miracles of healing, but in every case the one who was healed co-operated in the miracle by their faith. The Lord is not a showman, who puts on miracles and prodigies to dazzle a crowd.
Rather, the Lord takes what is small, what is, in the eyes of the world, insufficient… and He enjoins us to put it into service, and He fills it with His own power and grace to make it something far more than simply natural.
How often do we think that what we can offer Lord is just entirely too little, entirely insufficient? If we are honest with ourselves, we know our own insufficiency. Yet our Lord calls us to bring forth what we do have. And just as in today’s Gospel, a very little can be incomprehensibly increased by the divine power. And so can the little that we have, the little that we are, be increased by God’s blessing and grace.
Our Lord looked up to heaven and He blessed the loaves and fishes, and so He too will bless all who offer themselves unto Him.
The Lord gave the foods to His disciples to allow them to be the distributors of the miracle which was being wrought. So also does the Lord continue to distribute grace and healing, nourishment and spiritual health through the hands of those who serve Him, and who serve those who follow Him. Thus, by the power of God, we must serve one another for His sake.
And they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. A wondrous miracle! The bread lasted until all the multitude had been filled, and even exceeded what was needed. There were twelve baskets full of fragments remaining, so that the twelve Apostles would each carry a basket, even Judas. Even Judas. Let us take this as a sobering example that even those who witness, who participate in a miracle can, through ingratitude, come to a sad end. Simply witnessing a miracle is no sign of sanctity. It is the action of grace within the heart and concordance to the will of God that bring sanctification.
In the end, we see that entire families had gone out to the desert, following the Lord, hearing Him, being healed by Him, and even being miraculously fed by Him. Now, just as those people went out from their cities and followed the Lord Who had gone into the wilderness, let us, also, my friends, even if just for a time today, retire from the noise of the world, flee from the incessant and pointless materialistic contention, and subjugate our fleshly wisdom to the wisdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If the people had not left the comfort of their houses and cities, if they had not walked through the wilderness, they would not have received healing and health for their sick, they would not have received the instruction of the Lord, they would not have received the miraculous nourishment and blessing of the loaves and the fishes.
Likewise today, let us leave our comfort, and run to the Church of God. Let us with our entire being seek and strive, that the Lord might feed us even from our insufficiency, and deliver us from every evil, and in the age to come grant us life everlasting.