At that time, Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there. Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at his feet, and he cured them. The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the deformed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind able to see, and they glorified the God of Israel.
Jesus summoned his disciples and said, “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.” The disciples said to him, “Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?” Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” “Seven,” they replied, “and a few fish.” He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets full.
What an opportunity of a lifetime! Jesus is passing through the town; the crowds hear about it and simply come to Him, bringing their loved ones in need of healing. We see Christ moved with compassion. And, as is typically the case, He is not just sentimental, His compassion translates into action. And this action comes through His chosen ones. “How many loaves do you have?” Why does He ask this? It obviously doesn’t matter. They responded that they had seven loaves. And a few fish. Note that Jesus did not ask them how many fish they had. They told Him about the fish out of generosity and openness to Him. Or, perhaps to demonstrate to Him that they really did not have enough to feed this crowd. But, as it turns out, what matters is that they had seven loaves and a few fish, and they knew that this was all they had. He wanted them to be cognizant of their lack of resources. They gave Him the seven loaves and fish, or more accurately, He took them. He accepted their offering, blessed it, broke it, and gave it back to them. The disciples in turn gave them to the crowds.
This is an image of the Church! Christ out of compassion for His people, does not want to see us “collapse” out of lack of sustenance. We see that we have little to offer Him. But it is enough. He accepts (through the priests, the ones who offer sacrifice) what we can offer, and He blesses it, breaks it, and gives it back to the them, who in turn give it to us. This is true whether the “bread and fish” are sound teaching, or whether it is the Eucharist. He gives us sustenance for the journey, lest we collapse. We for our part, only need to show up, to eat, and to be satisfied. So let us seek Him, let us follow Him up the mountain, let us remain with Him, even to the point of forgetting ourselves, let us hunger, and then let us be satisfied by Him who is the Word and the Bread of Life. And yes, let us have more when we’re through than when we started!