18th Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
August 2, 2020
The miracle of the multiplication of the bread is one of the few stories that appear in the four Gospels. This may point to the veracity of the miracle itself that impressed and impacted the lives of the apostles. Though the general plot is the same, every Evangelist has presented their own emphasis. Today we are zeroing in the Gospel of Matthew and his particular emphases.
One of these particular emphases is the special role of the disciples. Certainly, without Jesus, there will be no miracle at all, but Jesus makes sure that His disciples also will participate in His miraculous work, and amazingly, the disciples respond well to Jesus’ invitation. Let us look into some details.
Firstly, the initiative is coming from the disciples. They are the ones who notice the condition of the people, exhausted and famished. They propose a practical solution to the situation: send them away to look for food. They may come up with such a plan because of a noble reason. They wanted their tired teacher as well as the people to find some rest after a long and grilling day of teaching and healing. Yet, they forget that Jesus is the rest Himself, as He once said, “come to me you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest [Mat 11:28].” For Jesus, the initiative is commendable, but He is not satisfied with the solution. Thus, He says to them, “You give them food yourselves.”
We can imagine the faces of the disciples as they are looking at each other and baffled. Yet, instead outrightly dismissing His demand as something absurd, they do even something extraordinary. They offer Jesus what they have. It is small and far from enough, yet a sincere offering nonetheless. From here, we can already detect that the disciples have somehow grown. They have followed their Master for some time and they have witnessed many miracles of Jesus, listened to countless of His teachings, and seen how Jesus tenderly loved the people. They have grown like Jesus. They have faith that Jesus can do the impossible, and they become more and more compassionate like Jesus.
It is no wonder that after Jesus blesses and breaks the bread, He chooses to give them to the disciples. He trusts now that the disciples will carry on His mission of caring and loving the people. Indeed, they faithfully bring the broken bread to the people. This miracle is the first yet crucial step for Jesus and His disciples because later, Jesus will entrust the same disciples to bring Jesus Himself to His people in the Eucharist.
Jesus surely can perform the miracle by Himself, and as God, He has no need of any man’s help. Yet, because His very nature is love, He wants people He loves to become the loves themselves. Jesus invites the disciples to participate in His miracle of love, and so that they may learn to love deeper. As Jesus shares His life to them, the disciples as the sharers of His mission will eventually love till the end.
That is how Jesus forms us as His disciples. He invites us to actively participate in His life and mission. This is a mission to feed, to care, and to love His people. This is the beauty of our faith and religion. It is not a passive and powerless faith, yet a faith that is truly alive, shared and enriching, a faith that grows into hope and hope perfected into love.
Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP