The miracle that we read of in today’s gospel seems to have various levels of application for us.
Firstly, of course, we have the presenting situation of a physical hunger – “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way.”
Apart for satisfying physical hunger, we can read here, and relish, that Jesus is moved by our inner world too – he sees our lack of nourishment and emptiness of spirit, he sees and knows our hunger for the basic things of life and wants to address these needs of ours too.
However, aside from this ‘hunger’ we also see that the reign of God that Jesus came to announce very much includes all and especially those in need of any kind. Today we read of the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, all finding their way to Jesus and being nourished by his teaching and hope-filled message but more so, we see that they also experienced physical healing.
Thus, we see the healing hand of God at work in Jesus. No matter what our external situations – our blindness in life and our failures to see those around us, our inability to walk the way of love and self-giving, or our incompleteness and lacks at times – Jesus is constantly extending healing and the offer of new life to us.
In this reading too, we learn that our resources, meager as they might be in our own eyes, can be taken up by Jesus and used to nourish others. What is more, whilst our efforts and capacity might seem to us to be small compared to the scale of the challenge, we should not be discouraged. Jesus takes what we have to offer, and in his hands, it is magnified and becomes effective.
So, we might take encouragement from this text today. It is given so that we might have trust and faith in Jesus and in his care for us, and we learn that his mission and presence in our world builds on our own generosity and contribution too.
Finally, we might see a reminder that it is the Eucharist which is not only the source of nourishment for us – for which we too give thanks, but it is also that place where we can hear the call of Jesus to go out to others and to serve generously.
We do all this in faith, knowing that this passage will come alive again and again and that we too will eat and be satisfied in the company of Jesus.
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is a member of Holy Spirit Province, Australia.