V.6:5= When Jesus raised His eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to Him….
As we recall from the opening of this chapter Jesus was up on the mountain and seated with His disciples, so the expression “raised’ – or as some translations have it “lifted up” His eyes is worth momentary reflection.
Had Jesus been sitting there, with His head bowed in prayer and thus, after some time, had to lift His head, raise His eyes as the Evangelist describes it?
Is St. John pointing to something deeper here?
Everything that exists is endowed with movement for the source of everything, and everyone, is the Holy Trinity, infinitely in ceaseless movement of dynamic, active love between the Persons of the Trinity, the outward movement towards all creation, sustaining everything and everyone in existence, the movement of breathing life into each person as we are created, the ceaseless movement of lavishing love, mercy, grace upon us.
Angels have movement, the cosmos itself moves, planets, birds, sea creatures, forest and farm animals move, human beings move: by gestures such as smiling, embracing, dancing. We move when we run, walk, play, rejoice or grieve, we move in health and sickness, in acts of love for another, charity towards those in need, and twice in our lives we move in the arms or by the strength of others when we are born to the baptismal font, carried to the grave.
Every human act of moving has a purpose, even the smallest and simplest of them.
The Divine Liturgy itself is filled with movement, movements that are constitutive of worship and prayer, movements of both priest and people.
For example in the Roman Canon, also known as the first Eucharistic Prayer, during the consecration, the priest himself raises his eyes when he prayer-reflects Jesus’ own movement: ….with eyes raised to heaven.
Holy Mass then is where our movements achieve a type of sacred re-anointing by our active participation, so that when we move forth from receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, have had Sacred Scripture implanted in us anew, our movements, between the two Masses where we live – this one and the next one – are movements in imitation of, with and through Christ of radiating the Gospel of Life, Love, Mercy, Charity towards others with our lives without compromise.
St. Luke tells us for example of Christ’s movement when teaching the Beatitudes and when ascending into heaven: Then He lifted up His eyes towards His disciples…[6:20] – and - ……Then He led them out as far as Bethany, raised His hands, and blessed them. As He blessed them He parted from them and was taken up to heaven. [24:50-51]
V.6:5 cont.: and saw that a large crowd was coming to Him,….
Again, when contemplating each line of the Holy Gospel it is important to ‘see’ what we contemplate/read.
If we contemplate the Holy Gospel, opening our beings to the Holy Spirit who will fill us with the light of Christ, we will become living icons of Christ, of the Gospel of life.
As the late Archbishop Joseph Raya of holy memory frequently taught: “We become what we contemplate.”
We might assume the people were coming forward in a peaceful and orderly fashion.
However, when people are hungry and without food and volunteers come forward with food – in a refugee camp for example; when the Holy Father moves among the people during a General Audience, or when it is time for Holy Communion when he visits a country outside of Rome – well we all know anxious human beings tend not to approach calmly, orderly!
Perhaps is was the way in which the ‘great multitude’ was coming towards not just Jesus but the disciples as well, that moved Jesus, always filled with clear understanding of humans and our motives, actions, to act.
St. John points out something else was happening here as well, namely a test of Philip’s faith in, and trust of, Jesus: He said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
v.6: He said this to test him, because He Himself knew what He was going to do.
Love is both the impetus for a test, the matter being tested and the correct response to the test between lover and beloved.
Adam and Eve experienced Love’s first test in all human history. Much of the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament is replete with examples testing by Love Himself of His Beloved Chosen People. While God’s testing of His Chosen People is marked by His love, their testing of Him, like ours, is marked by sin, making His Loving Mercy all the more splendid, generous, always lavish.
Spouses do it, parents do it, children certainly do it to their parents and siblings. In a word we human beings, and not always with love as the impetus, experience being tested and do test.
Here, with Philip, Jesus is administering a love test, for Philip is beloved of Jesus and Philip needs to overcome his doubts and hesitations if ever he is to truly love Jesus, trust Jesus, be able to proclaim the Gospel in his turn.
v.7: Philip answered Him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little bit.”
Obviously from Philip’s response the crowd was huge indeed, and Philp replies with very human practicality as in the moment Philip thinks only in terms most of us would think of if anyone asked us that question.
Vs. 8-9-10: One of His disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to Him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. [Only St Matthew in his accounts references women and children were also present, cf. Mt.14:21]
These verses are prelude to something extraordinary which reveals Christ’s love, His power over created matter, itself His movement within creation, beyond, as we shall see further on, the immediate miracle.
v.11=Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted.
Some scholars suggested what really happened was that people seeing the boy sharing the bread and fish they in their turn shared what they brought with them and so the miracle was that of sharing rather than a miraculous act by Jesus resulting in the multiplication of the loaves and fish.
To be blunt that is bunk and reveals weakness of faith. The crowd had clearly rushed to follow Jesus and would not have returned first to their homes to, in modern parlance, ‘pack a lunch’!
We see here too, the words and action of Jesus, as prelude to the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, as is prayed in the Divine Liturgy: Broken and distributed is the Lamb of God, broken yet not divided, ever eaten yet never consumed, but sanctifying the communicants.
©2018 Fr. Arthur Joseph