Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
O God give your judgement to the king,
to a king’s son your justice,
that he may judge your people in justice
and your poor in right judgement.
May the mountains bring forth peace for the people
and the hills, justice.
May he defend the poor of the people
and save the children of the needy.
In his days justice shall flourish
and peace till the moon fails.
He shall rule from sea to sea,
from the Great River to earth’s bounds.
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages, and buy themselves something to eat.”
But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
When they found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
This memorable miracle-story is told with variations in all four Gospels. It made a deep impression not just on those who were there but on every generation since. The importance of this story for people in those early days is clear enough. In a peasant, agricultural society that was politically and economically oppressed by the occupying Romans, getting enough food to eat was a daily challenge that is almost beyond understanding in the developed world today. For later generations in more prosperous times, it points to a core ideal taught by Jesus, inviting his people to share what they have with others.
Each of the Gospels tells of crowds coming from the surrounding countryside to listen to Jesus, so that at the end of a long day, five thousand people were in urgent need of food and lodging. Sensibly enough, the disciples suggest sending the people away to fend for themselves. But Jesus knows that the food already to hand will be enough, even though so far they had only succeeded in finding five barley loaves and two fish – remember, they were not far from the lake of Galilee. At any rate, when he blessed this apparently meager meal and invited his friends to distribute it, something wonderful happened. They all found to their amazement, that everyone had enough to eat, and the leftovers filled twelve baskets.
Many today would want to personally experience this miracle of sharing, when times are tough. Perhaps it can be achieved still, if the generous spirit of Jesus gets into our hearts, and into our governance, the sharing spirit that Pope Francis is calling for. The miracle of the loaves and fishes is a colourful background to the principle so well expressed in today’s epistle, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God.”
Jesus wanted his disciples to be sharers, people of generous spirit willing to offer a helping hand to others in need. But whan they wanted him to send the crowd away and let them forage for themselves, he told them, “Give them something to eat yourselves.” It was as if to say, “Take some responsibility for these needy people yourselves; don’t just wish them away.”
He also wants to motivate and prod us into doing something, however small, about the inequality and injustice we see around us. Eventually they cam up with five loaves and two fish, apparently enough to feed two or three adults. But by some miracle, with those few resources they fed the whole crowd. he was teaching them (and us) that sharing something, no matter how small, can bear rich fruit. He can take our giving, whatever it is, and use it to do good. This miracle encourages us to be generous donors, even when we seem to have little to give that could change the situation we see around us.