2021 17th Sunday of the Year (B)
Did you see why the five thousand men not to mention women and children follow Jesus? We are told at the beginning of the gospel reading: “they were impressed by the signs he gave by curing the sick.” That’s why they followed him. And who wouldn’t? Even today anyone who has a reputation for healing will draw large crowds. People go in the hope that they or their loved ones will be healed. Some of these healers are authentic; they are there to serve. Others are not authentic; they are there for the wrong reasons. Jesus is clearly there to serve, to help, to heal.
But there is something more about Jesus which sets him apart. He doesn’t just care about the soul he also cares about the body as well. He wants them to have a nice meal. The people that followed him were hungry yes but they weren’t starving. Jesus didn’t have to feed them. They could have returned home later that day, albeit very hungry. But Jesus didn’t want them to be hungry. Now there can be nothing nicer than a free meal. It’s also surely one of the best experiences in life to be out in the open and have a picnic. The food taste even better. You can imagine how happy those five thousand must have been as they chatted away and ate as much as they wanted. And how grateful to Christ.
Of course Jesus wants them to would understand the deeper meaning of what he did. And then to understand who he is. Many months later at the Last Supper he would take more bread and again bless it and give it to his disciples. “Take this and eat it” he would say, “for this is my body.” Now he was giving them food not just for the body but above all for the soul. And the priest at mass does something similar, he holds us the consecrated bread and says, “the body of Christ.” And the people reply: “Amen”; meaning: I believe. Jesus feeds us this way every Sunday. It really is food for our journey through life. And, like the 5,000, it’s free. It cost Jesus, but it doesn’t cost us anything. And with this food we can remain strong in our faith. We will grow in our love and awareness of God. We will realize that he cares not only for our souls but also for your bodies; He wants us to be happy. So the next time you have a meal, thank God. We used to say grace before meals and some families still do: it’s a way of saying thanks to God, because, if only we realized it, even this meal is a gift from Him. We should thank God for the gift of food. He is a God who cares about us; even about our stomachs, but above all our souls, because they are eternal.