For this coming solemnity, the readings make a strong connection between the priesthood (in the first reading and the psalm) and the Eucharist (in the second reading and the Gospel with its alleluia). The collects lead us from reverence, through unity and peace, and to sharing in Christ’s life for eternity; all three of these are thematically Eucharistic and suggests directions for the homily on communion and community.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells them to give the people some food themselves, rather than sending the people away into the local villages. The apostles realize how little they have, whether in the material of loaves and fish, but spiritually to feed people as Jesus does in his preaching. The detail of “groups of fifty” points to the fact that the first thing that Jesus does is to bring order in the confusion of our human condition. Not that the crowd was disorderly, but having come to Jesus, the crowd seems to go through stages of coming together in an orderly community. The use of numbers, 5, 2, 50, 5,000, and 12 resonate with other biblically meaningful and symbolic numbers. Numbers almost always point to some sort of order.

This incident has always been read as a sign foretelling the Last Supper and the Eucharist, especially around the theme of fulfillment and satisfaction for the human person. There have been other recent readings regarding the breakdown of the barriers of ritual purity concerning food; some frown on this reading of this text because it seems to deny the aspect of multiplication, a word that itself does not appear in the text in any of the Gospels.

The last verse of this passages seems fruitful for reflection: fragments gathered signify abundance and fulfillment.

Alan Hartway

Theological Studies at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago IL; Master of Fine Arts, Poetics, at Naropa University, Boulder CO 1996; Master of Arts, Greek Classics, University of Colorado, Boulder CO 2012; Taught at Naropa University from 1999 through 2015; Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies from 2007-2015; Member of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Kansas City Province since 1974; Pastor at Guardian Angel Catholic Church, Mead, CO, ministry from 2007-2020 Currently Retired

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