The Feeding of the 5,000 and Loving the Whole Person
User’s Guide to Sunday, July 25
Sunday, July 25, is the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass Readings: 2 Kings 4:42-44; Psalm 145:10-11, 15-16, 17-18; Ephesians 4:1-6; John 6:1-15.
Beginning on the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time of Year B for the next five weeks (except for the Solemnity of the Assumption) we are going to hear the Eucharistic chapter of John 6 before we enter back into the Gospel of Mark on the 22nd Sunday. These weeks help us appreciate the solicitous concern the Lord has for both the physical and spiritual well-being of those who love him and are united in the Body of Christ.
In this Sunday’s Gospel (John 6:1-15), a large crowd follows Jesus to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus wonders to Philip about how to feed such a large amount of people. Philip is unsure, but Andrew and Peter tell Jesus about a boy who is willing to share his five fish and two barley loaves. Jesus then multiplies the two loaves and five fish to feed 5,000 men plus women and children, with 12 wicker baskets left over. The people are amazed and proclaim Jesus to be “the Prophet” for whom they have been waiting.
The Galileans know that Jesus is not the first prophet who fed many people on little food. In the first reading this Sunday (2 Kings 4:42-44) the prophet Elisha feeds 100 people from 20 barley loaves and also has leftovers. Elisha is what we call a “type” of Christ. In Scripture there are many parallels between Elisha and Jesus.
For example, Elisha’s miracle of the feeding of 100 men comes in the same chapter as the miracle in which Elisha brings the Shummanite woman’s son back to life. Elisha first sends his servant with his staff to raise the boy, but when that fails, he goes in person. Jesus, in the Gospel of John, has just brought an official’s son back from the “point of death,” not by going to the boy, but with his words (see John 4:50). When the people draw the connections between Jesus’ miracles and those of Elisha, they believe that Jesus is an even greater prophet than Elisha. Elisha fed 100 people with 20 loaves, but Jesus fed 5,000 men plus women and children with only two.
Psalm 145 is the responsorial Psalm, and in it we pray to the Lord about his care for his “faithful ones.” The Lord created human persons with both a body and a soul, and he cares for both our body and soul. Jesus emphasizes again and again the importance of the health of our souls but shows that God has compassion for the whole person in healing physical ailments as well as those afflictions of the soul. God acts similarly through Elisha, looking for faithfulness to God in God’s people, but also providing them with food, health and success in battle.
This theme of caring for the body and the soul are essential to our Catholic understanding of the world — and the Church has condemned many heresies that deny the importance of the body. That is why it is so beautiful for the feeding of the 5,000 to come right before the “Bread of Life” discourse, which we will hear at Mass in the coming weeks.
In the second reading, St. Paul encourages the Ephesians (Ephesians 4:1-6) to “live in a manner worthy of the call they have received.” We are all called to live in our vocations in humility, gentleness and patience, with love, but also in unity. In our one baptism we are united in one body and one Spirit in Christ. Part of our call as a Church is to share in the Lord’s care for the whole human person. Let us seek to build up this unity, trusting together in our Heavenly Father for his blessings and loving and helping one another in our needs, both spiritual and physical.