Matthew 14: 13 – 21 Feeding five thousand people.
The recent death of Marcus Borg brings to an end the creative partnership of two wonderful Biblical scholars. With John Dominic Crossan, he wrote several books including ‘The Last Week’, about the final fateful week of Jesus’ life. I mention this to acknowledge my debt to them as I comment on Matthew’s account of the feeding of five thousand people.
Borg and Crossan point out that Jesus was often criticized for eating meals with the wrong sort of people and that food supplies and debt were frequent problems for many in those days. Faced with the problem of feeding a big crowd, the disciples want Jesus to send them away to fend for themselves but, no, he insists, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”
The feeding stories are not about a miraculous multiplication of a few loaves and fish. Rather, they show how cooperation and fair distribution can bring abundance and harmony. There is enough for everyone if nobody grabs what they can without a thought for their neighbours. Jesus took the meager supply available and blessed, broke and distributed them. These three actions are at the heart of our Holy Communions, Masses, Eucharists – whatever we call them. The sad fact, reflected in these different titles, is that our attempts to follow the example and teaching of Jesus have resulted in division, disharmony and self-protective hoarding. The ego, the false self that Jesus tells us must be put to death, is always concerned about scarcity, always therefore seeks to hoard, is afraid of the generosity of God, assumes that more is necessary before anything can be achieved. When I discover the underlying truth about who I really am the abundance of the present moment opens up. There is no need to wait until one condition or another is fulfilled. If, in trust, I use what is available to me at this moment then I am blessing, breaking and giving.