Our Lord’s multiplication of the loaves and fish occupies a privileged place in the list of miracles. It is the only one recorded by all four Evangelists and the only one that prompts such a strong response from the crowd: they want to make him king. It points us to the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith. Thus, in this scene our Lord announces the inestimable gift of the Eucharist. In his treatment of the Apostles, He also outlines how the Church’s Shepherds are to continue nourishing us.
Perhaps most significantly, He tests them first: “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He asks this question not because He needs the answer but because Philip and the others need to think about it. The temptation for the Apostles is to rely on human means. As Philip observes, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” Andrew chimes in with the same natural way of thinking: “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” These are voices of discouragement because they are voices of worldly thinking.
Here is the constant temptation of bishops and priests: to rely on human ingenuity and worldly resources rather than on Christ. It’s naturalism, the error of thinking that what a diocese or parish really needs can be found in what the world supplies. If only we have more money, the right resources, the best programs, greater social media presence, etc.
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