John 6: 1-15
After this, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee (some call it Tiberias). A huge crowd followed him, attracted by the miracles they had seen him do among the sick. When he got to the other side, he climbed a hill and sat down, surrounded by his disciples. It was nearly time for the Feast of Passover, kept annually by the Jews.
When Jesus looked out and saw that a large crowd had arrived, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread to feed these people?” He said this to stretch Philip’s faith. He already knew what he was going to do.
Philip answered, “Two hundred silver pieces wouldn’t be enough to buy bread for each person to get a piece.”
One of the disciples – it was Andrew, brother to Simon Peter – said, “There’s a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But that’s a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this.”
Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was a nice carpet of green grass in this place. They sat down, about five thousand of them. Then Jesus took the bread and, having given thanks, gave it to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish. All ate as much as they wanted.
When the people had eaten their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted.” They went to work and filled twelve large baskets with leftovers from the five barley loaves.
The people realised that God was at work among them in what Jesus had just done. They said, “This is the Prophet for sure, God’s Prophet right here in Galilee!” Jesus saw that in their enthusiasm, they were about to grab him and make him king, so he slipped off and went back up the mountain to be by himself.
This is the only miracle found in all four gospels, which means it is an exceptional event with meaning that goes much deeper than the extraordinary feeding of those thousands. In the gospel of John, Jesus is the one who explains in great detail what this sign means. The evangelist links the miracle with the mission of Jesus and the Eucharist: he uses the same verbs we later find in the institution of the Eucharist – Jesus took the bread, gave thanks and gave the bread to the people inviting them to take as much as they needed.
Jesus once said that he came so that we may have life and life in abundance, and this is so evident in this miracle: Everybody ate as much as they wanted, and there were twelve baskets of leftovers, much more than the amount they started with. This reminds me of the extravagant quantity of water turned into wine at Cana: I consider how God in Jesus is generous beyond my imagination, in Cana, in the multiplication of the loaves, in my own life. I ask for the grace of gratitude.