The first assigned reading for this weekend comes from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. We have completed our readings from his letter to the Romans. In this reading, Paul addresses the issue of dissention in the Church in Corinth. He admonishes members to “agree in what you say. Let there be no factions; rather, be united in mind and judgment”.
The second assigned reading is St. Matthew’s account of the “multiplication of the loaves.” Some form of this story appears in all of the gospels, albeit the story is different in each of the Gospels. Matthew connects this incident with the killing of John the Baptizer and the withdrawal of Jesus from Galilee. Mark associates it with the return of the Twelve from their mission and a withdrawal into solitude for rest. The scene is not clear in any of the three synoptic gospels.
It is highly unlikely that very many of the crowd would leave home for a day’s journey without carrying some food. The modern Palestinian peasant would not be so improvident.
The ceremonial with which Jesus blesses and distributes the food anticipates the Last Supper. The Twelve hand out the food and collect the fragments, one basket for each. Matthew heightens the number of the people: uncounted women and children besides 5,000 men. The number is very probably exaggerated, and it is not the result of a head count in any case. Oral tradition tends to raise such figures.
The usual note of wonder that follows miracles is not mentioned here. The incident is related less for the element of the miraculous than as a symbol and an anticipation of the Eucharist and of the Messianic banquet. We must remember that this story was written down after the Resurrection of Christ. The association with the Eucharist is more explicit in John’s gospel, where the multiplication of the loaves is followed by John’s Eucharistic discourse (John: 6). It is a Messianic sign and symbol that will find its fulfillment in the true Messianic banquet, which is the Eucharist.
St. Matthew has abbreviated this story less sharply than others; but his abbreviations, achieved by the omission of some details and dialogue, have the effect of heightening the symbolic significance of this incident.
As I think about these two readings I gleaned this message: When we partake of Holy Communion, we must be aware that we should be “AT PEACE” with all others. Communion is the ultimate sign of union with God and our fellowmen. If I approach the CUP with hatred for anyone in my life, I truly don’t worthily receive Christ’s presence in my life. So, I should make sure that I ask Christ into my life with love for my fellowmen.