Saturday of Week 5 in Ordinary Time
1 Kgs 12:26-32;13:33-34
“I feel sorry for all these people.”
The gospel passage today is one that is deeply familiar to me, having encountered it numerous times and often reminded of by the Corinne May song, ‘Five loaves and two fishes’, which is often on rotation on my Spotify.
In the many times that I have previously read this passage, I have often focused on the miracle of Jesus providing the bread and fishes. How could this act be possible? Where did the food come from? Was the gospel writer referring to real bread and fish that was provided to the people? Or was it spiritual food that sustained them?
Strangely enough, my encounter with the passage today did not bring my attention to the miracle. Rather, I found myself distracted by two facts that stood out to me. First, Jesus in this passage fed the crowds with seven loaves of bread, and not five. Aside from going against my musical sensibilities, this strange fact made me wonder, was the number of bread itself a significant message to us?
Certainly, we know that seven is symbolic of ‘completeness’ or ‘perfection’ in biblical times. Perhaps the gospel writer was trying to tell us that the amount of bread that the disciples had was, in the hands of the saviour, just the right amount to feed the crowd, yielding baskets of leftovers that amounted to seven – yet another allusion to perfection. The fact of the matter is that we simply do not know. But I take much comfort from this appearance of the number seven in this passage.
The second line that stood out to me was at the very beginning of the passage, when Jesus said “My heart is moved for the crowd”. These words in themselves moved me deeply. It showed how much Jesus loved us, and how much He shared in our humanity. Surely, He understands our daily needs and discomforts. The physical hunger that many in the world unfortunately continue to face, and the spiritual hunger that afflicts so many more of us.
His heart is moved for our hunger and our afflictions. This is a God who not only understands us, but truly feels our pain and hunger. And He is moved to action, both in scripture and in our lives. How often have we grappled with failure and loss, but eventually been sent the things that we need to get by again? Did we do all this by/for ourselves? Are our jobs and performance bonuses truly a consequence only of our own hard work? Or are they part of the seven loaves that our Lord has given us out of compassion and love?
I choose to believe the latter. No, I know it to be a fact that all I have and received are given to me by our Lord. I know for a fact that I am no longer alone when I’m hungry, scared or lost. I know that our Lord is watching, that He knows how it feels to be hungry, scared and lost, and that He is so moved by my afflictions that He would send along helping hands and loving hearts to pick me up from where I’ve fallen.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)
Prayer: Lord, we pray for the humility to see Your Hands at work in our lives, and to see Your providence in both the good things and bad things that may come our way.
Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for His deep love and compassion.