a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time. Then he said to them, "Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them, in that case you may even be found fighting against God!"
They were convinced by him, and when the had called in the apostles, they had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonour for the sake of the name. And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.
The Lord is my light and my help;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
before whom shall I shrink? (R./)
There is one thing I ask of the Lord;
for this I long,
to live in the house of the Lord,
all the days of my life,
to savour the sweetness of the Lord,
to behold his temple. (R./)
I am sure I shall see the Lord's goodness
in the land of the living.
Hope in him, hold firm and take heart.
Hope in the Lord! (R./)
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.
When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?" He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "Six months" wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?" Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost." So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world."
When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
When the people wanted him as their king, Jesus went off to the mountain by himself. If the church is right in seeing him as king of the universe, we may wonder why he reacted negatively when the people wanted to make him as their king? Maybe what they wanted of him was not what he had come to bring. They would have liked to have his miraculous powers on tap, for their own national and personal aims. The miracle of the loaves and fishes, performed on a single occasion, they wanted as an everyday handout. Their request made sense, for he was born to be king, but not in the way that they wanted.
The reading from Acts mentions various messianic claimants and how many people had been confused and misled by them. A member of the Jewish council proposed a sensible criterion for judging the issue. If some claim is a merely human invention, it will not last for long; but if it is inspired by God, it should not be opposed. Even so, the apostles were not exonerated without penalty. The Sanhedrin decided to flog them before releasing them. Then, once they were released, they continued to preach in Jesus' name, unafraid to suffer for his sake.
In the end we must trust in Providence. If what we are doing is God's work, for that very reason it is worth doing and cannot end in failure. No worthy project is wasted energy. As we consider how individuals have survived tests of endurance, and how institutions like the church that have survived over the centuries, it suggests that all this part of God's plan. Other churches too deserve more respect than we often give them; and this can be a real spur to ecumenism.
Today we find Jesus and his disciples faced with a hungry crowd and little or no means of feeding them. In this situation of need, people reacted in different ways. Philip made a calculation: on the basis of the number of people and the amount of money available to buy food, and decided that nothing could be done. Andrew recognized that one of the crowd had a small amount of food but he dismissed this small resource as of no value.
There are two other responses to notice. First is the response of the small boy who willingly handed over the few pieces of food that he had. This is the response of the generous person, prepared to share all he or she has, even if it seems far below what is needed. The boy gave what he could. Then there is the response of Jesus himself. He took the slim resources that were offerd and, having prayed with thanks to God for this food, he somehow fed the enormous crowd. The gospel teaches us that if we give generously from our resources to others, the Lord will work through our resources, small as they may seem to us.