Gospel for Sunday, June 19 Luke 9: 10-17
Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ C
10Upon their return, the apostles told Jesus everything they had done. He then took them with him and withdrew to a city called Bethsaida. 11But the crowds knew it and followed him. He welcomed them and began to speak to them about the kingdom of God and to heal those who needed treatment. 12The day was beginning to decline and the Twelve approached him saying: “Dismiss the crowd, so that they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside to lodge and find food, since we are in a deserted area here.” 13Jesus said to them: “Give him something to eat yourselves.” But they replied: “We have only five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people.” 14In fact, there were about five thousand men. He said to the disciples: “Make them sit in groups of fifty.” 15So they did and invited them all to sit down. 16Then he took the five loaves and the two fish and, raising his eyes to heaven, blessed them, broke them and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the crowd. 17They all ate and were satisfied, and twelve baskets were taken away from their remaining portions.
Luke 9: 10-17
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it).
Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.
Everyone’s right to bread
Jesus does not say that goods are something negative in themselves: on the contrary, he repeatedly shows his concern for everyone to have enough for a dignified life.
Think of Jesus’ concern in multiplying bread and fish for the hungry crowds, a miracle which is reported to us by all four Evangelists, but which Mark and Matthew tell us twice (Mk 6.30-44; 8.1- 16; Mt 14,13-21; 15,32-39; Luke 9,10-17; John 6,1-13).
The hungry crowds stand before Jesus: “He welcomed them and began to speak to them about the kingdom of God and to heal those who needed treatment” (Lk 9:11): they need not only bread, but also the meaning of life, healing, peace, happiness (Jn 6.5).
Jesus puts to the test (the “test” is a typically Exodic theme: Ex 15; 16; 20; 32 …) his Church, inviting her to feed these people. And his Church immediately starts making human calculations, thinking about how to solve the problem according to worldly logic (Lk 9.13). Jesus completely displaces her, preparing, in his omnipotence, the messianic Easter: he orders the crowd to lie down, for the lavish and superabundant banquet of the “Day of IHWH” (Lk 9,17: cf. Pr 9,1-5; Is 25.6-12; 55.1-2; Rev 19.9.18), for a total of five thousand men (Lk 9.14: the eschatological Easter is no longer celebrated in the family, as required by Ex 12.3, but in community ).
The dream of a convivial world
Jesus teaches that “material needs must be satisfied. There can be no religious or economic rule to prevent it” (A. Agnelli). Jesus reiterates that “the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2.27), teaching that all laws and rules must have the human person at their centre. “All human, religious and economic-social laws that prevent access to the goods of the earth must be annulled” (A. Agnelli). What a warning for our economy which has capital and certainly not people at its centre!
“Jesus lived by proposing a project for a society completely different from the one we live in. He wanted a society in which people were considered equal, with equal dignity and rights, all important and unique. Today we live in a dramatic contradiction. A model of society based on the style of conviviality and sharing is in stark contrast with the economic system that is imposed on us and dominates our daily lives. This is a system designed and managed to produce inequalities and iniquities: economic inequalities with the concentration of world capital in a few countries and in large multinational companies in the hands of a few without scruples in using violence and domination, with the domination of finance and the emptying of people’s work. We experience inequalities in the field of rights: millions of people are not recognized as belonging to the one human family, and are forced to live in fear and clandestinity. With all these types of inequalities, religions can become places of confirmation and support of an oppressive system and often serve it: they use their rituals to calm consciences and perpetuate systems of violence and death” (A. Cortesi).
“You yourselves give them something to eat”
Jesus exhorts the disciples: “You yourselves give them something to eat” (Mk 6.37; Lk 9.13): we must all shoulder the suffering of the needy, it is everyone’s task to feed the hungry of this world. “It is a Christian duty, therefore, to point out the inhumanity of the economic laws which still today prevent a large part of humanity from being able to feed themselves, quench their thirst and take adequate care” (A. Agnelli).
Furthermore, Jesus teaches that it is sharing that works the miracle of solving everyone’s problem: the few loaves and fishes offered to him are transformed by the power of his Word into satisfying the food needs of the crowds.
“Jesus poses the challenge on two levels: – the personal commitment to give an answer to those who are hungry; Jesus asks me to get my hands dirty, to put in my time, my energy, my strength, my intelligence to find a significant and effective answer to the questions of humanity, and of the individual people who cross my path; – the gift of oneself. A little time (or even a lot), things, energy or money is not enough for Jesus; we could say that he is not satisfied with “so little”; he asks the disciples to become bread, to let themselves be eaten; he asks to become broken bread so that others can be fed. “Give yourselves something to eat”, it is life itself that becomes nourishment, a gift; the Lord is asking for everything, completely and totally, without reservations, half measures. To become broken bread is to let oneself be modelled, kneaded by God, let oneself be cooked by the fire of the Spirit and his love for him, and then let oneself be broken to be eaten by many; it becomes the gift of life given daily and totally” (giovaniemissione.it).
The “seven baskets” (Mt 15.37) or, depending on the versions, the “twelve baskets” (Mk 6.43; Mt 14.20; Lk 9.17; Jn 6.13) of leftover bread, are a sign of the prodigious superabundance that can result from sharing, but also a warning not to waste material goods. The “twelve” of the Luke story (Lk 9.17) is a symbol of fullness, of perfection, but it is also the reminder that this miracle occurs through the intercession of the Twelve: that is, Jesus manages to feed the crowd through the Church.
Become bread for others
As Pope Francis says: “The Lord makes us follow his path, that of service, of sharing, of giving, and the little we have, the little we are, if shared, becomes wealth, because the power of God, which is that of love, descends into our poverty to transform it. Let us ask ourselves then…, adoring Christ truly present in the Eucharist: do I let myself be transformed by Him? Do I let the Lord who gives himself to me guide me to get out of my little enclosure more and more, to go out and not be afraid to give, to share, to love Him and others?”.
The Brazilian Bishop Monsignor Pedro Casaldaliga wrote: “Where there is bread there is God… The earth is an enormous plate of rice, an immense bread and ours, for the hunger of all. God becomes bread… The Bible is a menu of brotherly bread. Jesus is the living bread. The universe is our table, brothers… We are family in the breaking of bread. Only when the bread is broken will they be able to recognize us. Let us be bread, brothers. Give us, Father, our daily bread: rice, corn or flat bread, the bread of the south of the world.”
Happy Mercy to all!
Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at email@example.com.