Fish and Chips for Everyone

Loaves and fishes for more than five thousand people might be equivalent to a meal of fish and chips for such a crowd. Matthew in his gospel points to Jesus as the healer of those who are ill and the one who feeds the hungry. In the Galilean villages of his day hunger was an overwhelming problem. Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Father give us this day our daily bread.” The story which addresses this problem is repeated no less than six times in the gospels. Thus we have testimony to the reality of a memorable meal with Jesus. It took place in the countryside where many people participated. The memory that remains is that the disciples could only find five loaves and two fish among the people, but everyone shared in what little they had. With the blessing of Jesus they were all able to eat.

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This story has a past connection with the Old Testament of the manna on which Israel was fed in the wilderness and the prophet Elisha’s feeding of a hundred people. Jesus feeding also anticipated the Eucharistic meal of the Last Supper and the final banquet in the kingdom of God of which the Eucharist is both a foretaste and a prefigurement.

What is central is the way in which Jesus anticipates the Eucharistic gestures which will be recorded later in Matthew by “taking the loaves,” “blessing,” “breaking” and “giving.” Matthew expects that his readers now familiar with the Eucharistic celebration will understand that when they participate in the Eucharistic rite they are enjoying the same divine hospitality the Galilean crowds experienced. When we celebrate the Eucharist today the same Lord is present with us instructing our leaders as he instructed his disciples: “You, give them something to eat.”

The Eucharist will never be complete so long as people still go hungry in our world. We must never forget that that when we turn our backs to the world’s hungry, we lose our identity as Christians; we are not being faithful to Jesus; his sensitivity and his vision, and his compassion are missing from our Eucharistic meals. How can we transform our Church into a movement of more faithful followers of Jesus?

Fr Brian Kelty