Readings for July 29, 2018
2 Kings 4:42-44
If, as the saying goes, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, then God knows it to be true. Elijah, in the verses preceding the Sunday readings, purifies some poisoned stew so the people suffering from famine can eat (38-41). In the verses chosen for Sunday’s readings, he then feeds about 100 men with a few barley loaves and some corn. Echoing Elijah’s work, Jesus, having pity on the crowd and in a test of his apostles, feeds more than 5,000 with even less bread and a couple of fish.
These two stories have many similarities. Both stories end with enough food to feed the crowds and to leave a few leftovers. Both stories show how God overcomes the skeptics. Both stories show the incredible generosity of God. And both stories show how God’s love is not just reserved for the time after my death, but also to fill me here on earth.
All of that said, I think Jesus’ act of feeding the 5,000 may go one step further in its message. In the same chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (35) Humankind is hungry—hungry for love, hungry for salvation, hungry for meaning—and Jesus humbly proclaims that he will be the one to feed us. Doing so reveals his divinity. Doing so reveals that God, “who is over all and through all and in all,” offers His beloved Son in expiation for sin so we can be filled. Doing so, in a humility never before portrayed by a god, Jesus as the Son of the one true God presents himself as the Bread of Life.
In order to do so, he needed to be broken. In the gospels of both Luke and Matthew, Jesus broke bread, gave thanks and said, “Take and eat. This is my body, given up for you.” (Matthew 26:26, Luke 22:19) These words foretell how the Messiah is to fulfill his mission—he must be “broken.” Then, much like the loaves and fishes and barley and stew, he will be better able to be shared with the masses, to make his way into the hearts of people across the globe.
This sacrifice of Jesus allowing himself to be broken is honored during the Catholic Mass when the priest breaks the host, holds it high and prays, “Behold the Lamb of God! Behold him who takes away the sins of the world!” The Church refers to communion as Eucharist, which translates as “giving thanks.” In this way, the Church commemorates, acknowledges, and gives thanks for Christ as the Bread of Life, as the true Messiah sent to save us from our sins. When I confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, when I see him in the breaking of the bread and acknowledge his Messianic mission as the Bread of Life, I can “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord” by my life.
“Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you … it will become for us the bread of life.
-Liturgy of the Eucharist