18th Sunday Ord. Time – 2nd August 2020 — Gospel: Mt 14,13-21
Partakers as agents of communion
Sharing a meal is a primary means of creating and maintaining the community. Jesus wants to emphasize this aspect here and so turns to his disciples and indicates that they should give them something to eat. However, the disciples’ inability didn’t stop Jesus. In fact He makes them actually distribute the food to the crowds to build up communion. Jesus’ actions over the bread echo customs of Jewish meals (Lk 24,30; Acts 27,35). But for the Christians Jesus’ blessing and breaking bread creates spiritual elements recalling his final meal with his disciples (Mt 26,26-27; 1 Cor 11,23-24). In this sacred meal Christ satisfies the community’s deepest hunger, heals its brokenness, binds it together as one body, and strengthens it for service in the world. In this way participation in Christ’s meal creates the sacramental communion within the community.
The miracle of the feeding is not so much about what Jesus does, but what happens among the crowds in the presence of Jesus. The crowds experienced the transformative power of Christ’s presence, when he healed the sick and when he ordered them to make themselves comfortable on the grass. They must have felt that they were honoured guests at a meal. When he blessed the loaves, the crowds must have sensed this meal was something special. Even when the disciples moved through the crowds distributing the food, no one feared there wouldn’t be enough, and so they didn’t think of themselves and their own needs. It’s possible that they would have fed first their children, wives and sisters before others. They must have been overjoyed when they gathered up the abundance, because everyone had enough to eat. And so the disciples went on to count the number of beneficiaries in their community. Most profound thing that Jesus wants to make in this multiplication story is to make these disciples as agents of communion.
This simple feeding story is not about hunger and nourishment; it’s not about providing food for the hungry. If this were a typical miracle story, we would expect some kind of response from the people, usually narrated at the end of the episode (positively as praising God and negatively opposing Jesus). But it ends abruptly that all ate their fill, the leftovers are gathered and the statistical number is highlighted; it’s almost as if nobody has noticed what has happened. This story evokes images and experiences of net-working within communities that seek to provide enough for everyone. It also invites us to share the transformative power of Christ in our lives when we break bread together.