John 6: 1-15
1 After these events, Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also known as Tiberias. 2 A large crowd followed him because he saw all the actions revealing the presence of God that he was doing on the sick. 3 Jesus then ascended the mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. 4 The Passover, which is the feast of the Jews, was near at hand. 5 When he looked up and saw that a large crowd was coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where could we buy bread to make all these people eat?" 6 He said all this to verify the level of his faith, because he knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip replied, "Even if we bought the equivalent of two hundred days' worth of bread, it would not be enough for everyone to have a bite." 8 Andrew, one of his disciples and Simon Peter's brother, says, 9 "There is a little child here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?" 10 Jesus said, "Sit the people down." There was a lot of grass there, so they were able to sit around five thousand men. 11 Jesus then took the bread, did the thanksgiving, and shared it with the guests, and he did the same thing with the fish. People got as much as they wanted. 12 When they were full, he said to the disciples, "Pick up the pieces that remain, so that no piece will be lost." 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with the pieces from the five barley loaves that were left of those who had eaten. 14 After realizing the revealing action of the presence of God that had been taken, people said, "He is truly the prophet awaited by our world". 15 But Jesus, realizing that they were going to come and take him to make him king, went away into the mountain, all alone.
Gospel commentary - Homily
A few years ago Christians, claiming to be devout Catholics, gathered in the New York area, in Bayside, to pray around the figure of Mary, and to wait for signs from heaven. These signs could take various forms, an odor of rose which appeared suddenly, or the sun which suddenly took a strange form. All this makes me reflect on faith and leads me to ask the question: How to distinguish true faith from magic faith? How does authentic faith detach itself from this naive faith which was echoed in the recent conflict in the Middle East where each belligerent claimed to be of God? It is in this context that I want to read again the Gospel narrative of this Sunday.
We know this scene well, where Jesus feeds 5,000 people with only five barley loaves and two fish. If we are very familiar with the Old Testament, we know that this scene is inspired by the story of the prophet Elisha, in the book of Kings, where he feeds 100 people with 20 barley loaves. But the evangelist ends his narrative by speaking of "sign". Sign of what?
A sign is like this finger pointing towards the moon, it is the moon that must be looked at, not the finger. Where does our story point to? Let's look at the symbols. Jesus sits on a mountain, just like a master about to teach his disciples. When he takes the bread, gives thanks and distributes it to people, this scene, which clearly evokes for us the Eucharist and the shared blessed bread, refers us to his teaching, not only his words, but his whole life. This is what people who ate have understood, because they take Jesus for a prophet, more precisely the new Moses promised by God for a new revelation.
Everything points to a completely Christian scene: after having passed through the water of baptism (the passage to the other bank of the Sea of Gallilee), the believer that I am, healed of his infirmity, is nourished by the word of the risen Jesus, who is in fact his whole person, and he can eat as much as he wants, as long as he can receive it. This is the Eucharist. Yet this narrative says much more.
Let us remember how God fed his people leaving Egypt. People had to eat standing up, in a hurry. In the desert, food fell from the sky, in the form of manna. In the story of John, it is quite the opposite, the food does not come from heaven, as if to say that God no longer speaks through so-called seers. God speaks through the simple things in life, like through this child who had the loaves. We don't stay up, we sit comfortably on the grass, and we take the time to eat as much as we want, like at a party, like at a good picnic, that's what God wants.
What does this all mean? It is not in heaven or in extraordinary phenomena that one will find a sign of Christ Jesus. The loaves and fish found in the hands of a child, i.e. my life, simple and ordinary, all this is enough to feed the crowd. Let's see! How can my life be food for others? This is the question of Philip in the gospel. Our question could be: now that I am old or infirm, or isolated in the middle of nowhere, or without education or diploma, how can I bring something to others? Everyone has their own way of asking the same question. And the evangelist answers: look at the world with the eyes of faith, for faith is a way of seeing the invisible and of saying, "I give you thanks, Lord, for my life on this day, because even if I am old or weak, I know that by it you achieve wonderful things far beyond what I can see".
One last question. How to distinguish between an immature faith and one that is not? Maturity is this ability to evolve constantly, to be always learning. Look at Jesus. One day he has the infirm before him, another day the hungry. And people find it difficult to say who he is, a healer, a prophet, a king? We cannot enclose him in a single definition. This is why pretending to know who God is and what he wants once and for all is immaturity, because at this moment I remain focused on the past and I refuse to continue to grow. To believe is to say: "Lord, I accept my life as it is today, without nostalgia for the past, I give without waiting in return, for it up to you to trace my path, because I agree to evolve until my last breath."
-André Gilbert, Gatineau, April 2003