A Multiplication of Loaves and Love

A Multiplication of Loaves and Love

The story of Jesus’s multiplication of the loaves and fish is one of the first stories from the Bible that many children learn. And on the surface, it seems to be a simple story. It’s a wonderful lesson about the importance of sharing what we have, something that is crucial to teach our young ones. But what made this event so notable that it is featured in each of the four gospels? 

First, I think we must note Jesus’s incredible patience and compassion. Jesus was looking for solitude so that he could pray after hearing of the news of John the Baptist’s imprisonment. But the people were so anxious to hear his words that they followed him. Many of us would be angry or frustrated in that situation! But he responds with kindness and spends the whole day with them. He doesn’t even send them away to buy food but instead tells his disciples to provide the crowd with something to eat. 

Pope Francis has reflected on this story, noting that Jesus’s compassionate response shows that he knows this crowd is in need of his teaching. He said, “He reacts with a feeling of compassion, because he knows they are not seeking him out of curiosity but out of need. But attention: compassion—which Jesus feels—is not simply feeling pity; it’s more! It means to suffer with, in other words to empathize with the suffering of another, to the point of taking it upon oneself. Jesus is like this: he suffers together with us, he suffers with us, he suffers for us.” 

A small boy in the crowd generously offered what little he had to feed the people, but this only amounted to five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus gave thanks for this food before distributing it to the crowd. Miraculously, thousands of people were fed from just these few items, with even food remaining as leftovers. 

[Christ] reacts with a feeling of compassion, because he knows they are not seeking him out of curiosity but out of need.

– Pope Francis

This act reminds us of the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, when Jesus blesses the bread, then breaks it and gives it to his disciples. In doing this, Jesus is offering himself as nourishment and demonstrating how great his love is for us.  

And in the great act of multiplying the small offering of a young boy, Jesus also teaches us an important lesson: with God, all things are possible. But in order to make the greatest difference, as Christians, we must offer what we have. We cannot be selfish with our gifts, talents, and resources.  

Through this story, we are also reminded that God calls us to put the needs of others first. Sometimes we will be tired or feel we have nothing left to offer. And we live in a world where we are encouraged to think of ourselves first and only look to help others when our own needs are met. But that isn’t how Jesus lived. He took care of those around him and then was able to take the time he needed for himself. 

By putting the needs of others before our own, we are not only showing our love for our neighbor, but God’s love as well. This July, may we remember this important lesson and seek ways to put others before ourselves. There is no better way to share Christ’s love with those around us! 

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