St. John 6.vv.1-14

~ After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?". He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "Six months' wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little". One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?". Jesus said, "Make the people sit down". Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost". So they gathered them up and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, "This is indeed the prophet who is come into the world." ~

Victor Hugo recounts the story of a woman and her two children who during the French Revolution were forced to flee their home and take refuge in the forest, subsisting on roots and plants, and hiding away from the soldiery who searched the woods for such refugees. An officer, detecting a movement in the bushes, ordered his sergeant to drag out whoever was hiding. The latter brought the wretched trio before the officer who in pity seeing their hunger and plight offered the woman a roll of bread. Eagerly she seized it and breaking it in half gave it to the children. The sergeant amazed said, "Is it because the mother is not hungry?". "No sergeant", the officer replied, "it is because she is a mother".

We all know the importance of the "Staff of Life" and our dependence upon God the giver of physical and spiritual sustenance and we are all like beggars stretching out our hands to receive bread.

Christ in the first temptation which he tells us about (for the account must originally have come from that lonely figure in the wilderness) rejected the temptation either to satisfy his own physical hunger or to become an "economic Messiah" in order to bring in the Kingdom of God - yet in compassion he fed four and five thousand in the wilderness.

God fed his people with "manna" in the wilderness in the Exodus wanderings. He knows our needs and that we also tend to wander in the wilderness of this life, sad, lost, lonely and dispirited, but he ministers to our needs.

Pope Leo once said, "We become what we eat". The bread of which we are speaking, material or spiritual, comes from outside but we need to take it into ourselves, to digest it, and this applies particularly to the Word of God. We need to digest and be nourished by the Word of God, Jesus himself, who is described in the Gospels as the "Word made Flesh", the "Bread that comes down from Heaven".

In Holy Communion we perceive the greatest of all miracles. We sing "Bread of Heaven on thee we feed". If we take into ourselves the "true bread that comes down from heaven", we receive the gift of eternal life. Little Joe knew this. He was a small boy living in an orphanage. Every month the doctor examined the children to monitor their progress. One day the Sister in Charge said to little Joe, "It's your turn to go in now". When he came out she said to him, "Well, little Joe, and what did the doctor say about you?". "What a miserable little specimen!" was the reply, "but I don't think he knew that I have just taken my first Communion, do you Sister?".

Some people think that a consecrated wafer or piece of bread is the end product of a Communion Service. The end product is rather lives refashioned, reformed, consecrated and transformed.

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