Sunday, July 31, 2011

Jesus' Fortitude Before the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes

Jesus’ altruism never fails to astonish me. Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew recounts the famous miracle of Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fishes. I have heard this story many times in my life, and it always strikes a chord and resonates with me. Usually the narrative focuses my attention on the Eucharistic mystery and its sacramental foreshadowing in Christ’s feeding of the five thousand. I have also wondered with exceeding wonder at the generous and gracious heart of our Lord and Savior. The perpetual kid in me sometimes dwells on the miraculous omnipotence of God to do so much with so little. This time, though, what caught my attention is Jesus’ fortitude and stark humanity.

At the outset of the reading, Jesus has just found out that John the Baptist has been executed, clearly an ominous portent of what is to come in his own life, and he withdraws to be by himself in the comfort of solitude. Jesus’ prayer and isolation are interrupted, no disrupted really, however, when the masses pursue him ravenous for his teaching. Can you imagine the emotional turmoil and inner conflict that Jesus must have felt? The reality of his terrible destiny at the cross is beginning to dawn on him with the death of the prophet. He must be feeling real fear and struggling to get a handle on it before he continues with his mission. Instead of rest and convalescence, Jesus finds a mob at his feet testing his mettle even further. And how does he respond? The only way he knows how to: with love and the breaking of the bread. You just gotta love this man! It is a real test of courage to put aside his own personal angst to shepherd his needy people and to satiate their spiritual and physical hunger. Jesus does so without complaint in the true spirit of charity. It is easy to put my faith in such a warm and hospitable savior.

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