COMMENTARYAGAPE BIBLE STUDYPRACTICAL APPLICATIONCATENA AUREALECTORS

17th Sunday of Year B

FOOD FOR THE JOURNEY (15:02) – 2003 podcast from Bishop Robert Barron on John 6:1-15
OUR SUNDAY VISITOR
OUR SUNDAY VISITOR

Key Points to the Readings

FIRST READING

2 Kings 4:42-44

Give it to the people to eat

  • In the first reading, the prophet Elisha shows great faith in the power of God.
  • Elisha insists that everyone will be fed with an obvious insufficient amount of food.
  • The true nourishment of the prophets is God’s word which overflows and nourishes all around them.
SOURCES: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor.  The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.

SECOND READING

Ephesians 4:1-6

Bear with one another lovingly

  • The unity given to Christians through one Baptism in Christ is the subject of today’s passage from the Letter to the Ephesians.
  • Christians are one Body in Christ.
  • This unity is exemplified by Christians living in peace.
SOURCES: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor.  The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.

GOSPEL

John 6:1-15

Jesus gave the people all the food they wanted

  • The miraculous feeding in today’s Gospel provides a glimpse of the heavenly banquet, where there will never be hunger again.
  • The early Christians recognized in this miracle that hunger for life is the hunger that Jesus satisfies.
  • This story of the multiplication of the loaves becomes the symbol for Jesus’ Eucharistic feeding of his disciples through the ages.
SOURCES: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor.  The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.


Dr. Kieran J. O’Mahony, OSA

HEARERS OF THE WORD (PDF)

Navarre Bible

SUNDAY COMMENTARY (PDF)

COMMENTARY

Click to access 17-ordinary-time-year-b.pdf

Sources include The Jerome Biblical Commentary, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, and The Navarre Bible. In addition, Church History by Laux (TAN Books), Introduction to the Bible by Laux (TAN Books), A Guide to the Bible by Fuentes (Four Courts Press), and Sharing Our Biblical Story by Russell for background information. We also included quotations from The Faith of the Early Fathers (3 volumes) by Jergens and Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (many volumes) edited by Odum.
SOURCE: Bible study program at St. Charles Borromeo (Picayune, MS) courtesy of Military Archdiocese.
Raymond E. Brown

Introduction to the New Testament

The IMPERATIVE OR PARAENETIC SECTION OF THE BODY (4:1–6:20)

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OT FEASTS AND THEIR REPLACEMENT (Chaps. 5-10)

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Ave Maria Press

A Catholic Study of God’s Word

THEMES IN EPHESIANS

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Niell Donavan

Sermon Writer

saint louis university

Scripture in Depth

PREACHING THE LECTIONARY by Reginald Fuller

FIRST READING:  This little story from the Elisha cycle is not widely known, but it has become quite important in recent New Testament scholarship because it provides the literary prototype of the miraculous feedings in the Gospels.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM:  The second stanza obviously connects with the Old Testament reading and the Gospel, and the common theme of both is further underlined in the refrain.

SECOND READING:There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all Christians, and therefore the writer, speaking in the Apostle’s name, can exhort his readers to be what they are. As in Paul himself, the imperative rests upon an indicative.

GOSPEL: In Mark’s first version of the feeding, we are told that Jesus packed the disciples off in a boat while he dismissed the crowd. The reason for this becomes clear in John’s note here: it was to prevent the disciples from being infected by the dangerous nationalistic messianic enthusiasm of the crowd.

RELATED:

  1. THE WORD EMBODIED: The Bread of Life
  2. HISTORICAL CULTURAL CONTEXT: A Need to Know
  3. THOUGHTS FROM THE EARLY CHURCH: Augustine
  4. LET THE SCRIPTURES SPEAK: The Prophet-King will Shepherd His People
  5. SPIRITUALITY OF THE READINGS: The Call
  6. GLANCING THOUGHTS: What Do You Need?
  7. THE PERSPECTIVE OF JUSTICE: Feeding the Hungary
  8. A POEM TO SIT WITH: Sitio
Visit liturgy.slu.edu for more resources (e.g PRAYING TOWARD SUNDAY, MUSIC OF SUNDAY, GENERAL INTERCESSIONS) to help you reflect on the spirituality of the scriptures before Mass.

17th Sunday of Year B

INTRODUCTION

The Hand of the Lord Feeds Us

Sharing a meal is a form of fellowship and an expression of family unity. This significance of sharing a meal applies for meals with friends and family and for sharing the Church’s family meal of fellowship with God the Father in the Eucharist.  The sacred fellowship meal of the Eucharist is a present and future reality. The Eucharist is a sharing of the life of Christ in the present in our earthly Sanctuaries, but it also points to the Banquet of the Just at the end of time in the heavenly Sanctuary (Mt 22:1-10; Rev 19:6-9).

For the next five Sundays (the 17th through the 21st Sundays), the focus of our readings will be on miracle feedings and teachings that prefigure the Eucharist.

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.  Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
First Reading

Elisha’s Multiplication of the Loaves

In the First Reading, the feeding miracle of the prophet Elisha prefigures the miraculous feedings in the Gospels. Jesus will repeat Elisha’s miracle feeding of the multiplication of barley loaves in our Gospel Reading. Both feeding miracles recall the miraculous manna God fed the children of Israel during the years traveling through the wilderness on their journey to the Promised Land (Ex 16:31-36).

COMMENTARY

Feast of Firstfruits

The God-ordained Feast of Firstfruits took place on the day after the Great Sabbath, on the first day of the week we call “Sunday,” during the eight days from the Passover sacrifice to the end of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Lev 23:9-14; Jn 19:31). Mosaic Law required the covenant people to bring grain and bread made from the first fruits of the barley harvest to the Temple and make a profession of faith in front of the altar when presenting their gift (Dt 26:1-11). The covenant people repeated the same type of offering fifty days later when they gave the first fruits of the wheat harvest on the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost (Lev 23:15-22).


Prefigures Jesus’ Feeding Miracles

Elisha’s feeding miracle in the multiplication of the loaves prefigures Jesus’s feeding miracles of the five thousand and four thousand men, not counting women and children (Mt 14:13-21; Mk 6:31-44; Lk 9:10-17; Jn 6:1-13; Mt 15:32-39; Mk 8:1-10). The timing of this miracle was also significant. It occurred during the Feast of Firstfruits that took place on the first day of the week after the Saturday Sabbath of the Holy Week of Passover/Unleavened Bread. Thus, the day of Elisha’s feeding miracle prefigured the greater miracle when Jesus, the “Bread of Life,” arose from the dead on the first day of the week on the Feast of Firstfruits in AD 30 (Mt 28:1-8).

Notice the many parallels between Jesus’s feeding miracle in Matthew 14:13-21 compared to Elisha’s feeding miracle in 2 Kings 4:42-44:

Elisha’s Feeding Miracle Jesus’s Feeding Miracle
Only a small amount of food was available (twenty loaves of barley bread) in Elisha’s feeding miracle. Only a small amount of food was available (five loaves of barley bread and two fish) in Jesus’s feeding miracle.
Elisha’s servant protested that there was not enough food to feed so many men. Jesus’s disciples protested that there was not enough food to feed so many men.
The small amount of food became enough to feed a hundred men. The small amount of food became enough to feed five thousand men, not counting women and children.
There was food left over. Twelve large baskets of food were left over.
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2015

Elisha’s feeding miracle prefigured Jesus’s feeding miracles of the five thousand and four thousand men, not counting women and children. All three miracle feedings also prefigure the greater feeding miracle of the Eucharist to the faithful throughout the world.

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.  Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
Responsorial Psalm

The Lord Answers Our Needs

Response: For the hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.

The Responsorial Psalm invites the congregation to praise God, whose mighty works are evidence of His divine Kingship. In God’s hesed, a Hebrew word meaning “covenant love,” He provides for our needs and the needs of all living things throughout the seasons of the year. Thus, we receive assurance that even when we cannot understand God’s unfolding plan, we can have confidence that all His ways and works are holy, and He is near to all who petition Him in purity, humility, and truth of heart.

COMMENTARY

Context

The title of Psalm 145 attributes it to King David. The psalm is in an acrostic form, with every verse beginning with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The psalmist invites everyone in the congregation of the faithful to praise God whose mighty works show forth His divine kingship (verses 10-11). In the loving-kindness of God’s covenant love (hesed/chesed), He provides for our needs and the needs of all living things throughout the seasons of the year (verses 15-16). The psalmist assures us that even when we cannot understand God’s unfolding plan, we can have confidence that all His ways and works are holy, and He is near to all who petition Him in purity, humility, and truth of heart (verses 17-18).

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
Second Reading

Unity in the Church

In the Second Reading, St. Paul exhorts the faithful Christians of Ephesus to persevere in the unity of faith within their congregation. In today’s passage, St. Paul expresses one of the most profound statements summarizing our Christian faith in the New Testament. The focus of Paul’s message is the theological basis of our unity—the Most Holy Trinity.  The Divine Presence of the Most Holy Trinity is at work in the Church and keeps the New Covenant family together in “seven unities”: one Body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father.

COMMENTARY BY MICHAL E. HUNT

The Virtues

St. Paul, writing from his imprisonment in Rome, urged the Christian community reading his letter to persevere, united in the Holy Spirit as One Body in Christ despite tensions that threatened to disrupt their unity. The virtues that Paul lists in verses 2-3 are different aspects of charity (love in action) which "binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Col 3:14) and is the mark of Jesus Christ's true disciple (Jn 13:35). The "bond of peace" (verse 3) that unites all Christians is the peace of Jesus Christ: For he is our peace, he who made both one (Jews and Gentiles) and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh (Eph 2:14). By having the same faith and the same Spirit, St. John Chrysostom wrote that "all find themselves brought together in the Church—old and young, poor and rich, adult and child, husband and wife: people of either sex and every condition become the same ... However, this unity is maintained only by the 'bond of peace.'  It could not exist in the midst of disorder and enmity" (Homilies on Ephesians, 9).


Paul's Summary of the Christian Faith

Verses 5-6 may be from an acclamation in an early Christian baptismal liturgy. These verses express one of Paul's most profound statements, summarizing the depth of our Christian faith in a very few words, the focus of which is the theological basis of our unity—the Most Holy Trinity. The Trinity is at work in the Church and keeps the Bride of Christ together in the "seven unities" of the Church: one Body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father:

  1. "One Body":  The unified Body of Christ is the universal Church founded by Jesus, under the authority He gave St. Peter, the Apostles, and their successors.
  2. "One Spirit": There is only one Holy Spirit who brings about and maintains the unity of Christ's mystical Body, the Church, through which we were divinely called to have a share in the life of the resurrected Christ.
  3. "One hope":  Jesus Christ is the only hope of our salvation, as St. Peter declared, "There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved" (Acts 4:12).
  4. "One Lord": That we have one Lord is a profession of our belief in God the Son who, as our Lord and Savior, has sovereignty over His Kingdom of the Church and is the head of its mystical Body.
  5. "One faith":  There is only one faith that Jesus taught and which His Apostles and their successors, as shepherds of His Church, have expressed in clear statements of doctrine and dogma. Pope Pius XII wrote: "There can be only one faith; and so, if a person refuses to listen to the Church, he should be considered, so the Lord commands, as a heathen and a publican (cf. Mt 18:17)" (Mystici Corporis, 10).
  6. "One baptism":  There can only be one spiritual rebirth into the family of God through the Sacrament of Baptism to become a member of the Body of Christ. It is not an "initiation"; instead, it is a life transformation. Baptism is how, after making a profession of faith, one joins the other members of the Church as equals. Since there is only "one Lord, one faith, and one baptism," the Council of Vatican II states: "there is a common dignity of members deriving from their rebirth in Christ, a common grace as sons, a common vocation to perfection, one salvation, one hope and undivided charity" (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 32).
  7. "One God and Father of all, who is over all through all and in all": This statement affirms God's sovereignty and dominion over all the created order and the unity of humanity with God, the supreme Creator.

When Jesus communicated His glory to us, He joined us to God the Father by giving us a share in the supernatural life of the Godhead. This divine life is the source of the holiness of Christians united in the seven unities of Christ's Body, the Church. Like the community to whom Paul addressed his letter, we celebrate our unity in the sacred meal of Christ in the Eucharist. We come together as One united Body to receive Christ, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in our sacred meal made present by the power of the Holy Spirit on Catholic altars across the world. In our miracle feeding, there is always enough, and everyone leaves nourished spiritually by the life of Christ, which He shares with everyone who comes in a state of grace to His altar table (see 1 Cor 11:27-32).

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt's Agape Bible Study.  Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
Gospel

The Miracle Feeding of the More than Five Thousand

In the Gospel Reading, Jesus, like the 9th-century BC prophet Elisha, does not have enough bread to feed a multitude. However, He organizes the meal and presides over it, as He does at our Eucharistic celebration when we break bread together as a family. Like the miracle feeding of the manna in the wilderness, Jesus is the new Moses who provides what the faithful covenant children need. In the sacred meal of the Eucharist, it is as we repeat together in the psalm reading: "The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs."

We demonstrate our unity as One Body in Christ when we celebrate the "Thanksgiving" sacred meal of the Eucharist (Eucharistia means "thanksgiving" in Greek). "Christians come together in one place for the Eucharistic assembly. At its head is Christ himself, the principal agent of the Eucharist. He is high priest of the New Covenant; it is he himself who presides invisibly over ever Eucharistic celebration..." (CCC 1348). Our prayer in the miraculous feeding of the Eucharist is: "May all of us who share in the body and blood of Christ be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit" (Eucharistic Prayer III).

COMMENTARY

The Seven Public Signs of Jesus in John’s Gospel

The multiplication of the loaves and the feeding of the multitude of more than five thousand is the only miracle besides the Resurrection recorded in all four Gospels. However, it is not only a miracle. In John’s Gospel, it is a “sign,” an event that points to something greater. It serves as a preface to Jesus’s teaching on the true Bread of Life and points to the greater miracle of the gift of Himself in the Eucharist in the Bread of Life Discourse in John 6:22-66. There are only two miracle feedings in John’s Gospel: the miracle that involves bread in chapter 6 and the miracle involving wine in chapter 2. Together they anticipate the Eucharistic Liturgy where Jesus, who is both the “new Moses” and the “new manna,” gives Himself as food for the multitudes under the visible signs of bread and wine (CCC#1333-35).

Word was spreading among the population in the Levant about Jesus’s miracles. It was almost impossible for Him to avoid crowds of people following Him in their desire to witness His miracles. Although John’s Gospel highlights only seven public signs performed by Jesus, here in verse 2 and Jn 20:30 and Jn 21:25, John tells us that Jesus worked many miracles. John chose seven public signs as representative of Jesus’s many miracles because they illustrate certain facets of the mystery of Jesus the Messiah. An eighth sign was a private revelation of Jesus walking on the sea and calming the storm that was only for the Apostles in John 6:16-21.

The Public Seven Signs of Jesus in St. John’s Gospel
#1.  Jn  2:1-11 The sign of water turned to wine at the wedding at Cana
#2.  Jn  4:46-54 The healing of the official’s son
#3.  Jn 5:1-9 The healing of the paralytic
#4.  Jn 6:1-14 The multiplication of the loaves to feed the 5,000
#5.  Jn 9:1-41 The healing of the man who was born blind
#6.  Jn 11:17-44 The raising of Lazarus from the dead
#7.  Jn 2:18-20* The Resurrection of Jesus that will be fulfilled in Jn 20:1-10

*Jesus prophesied this sign in Jn  2:18-20, but it remained unfulfilled until Jn  20.
The miracle when Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee and calmed the storm was a private revelation for the Apostles, which again identified Jesus as the divine Messiah and the prophet “greater than Moses” (Dt 18:18).

In verse 3, Jesus went up on “the mountain.” The Gospel writers always refer to “the mountain” when Jesus ascends a height to teach or perform miracles. The reason is that “the mountain” is an important theological symbol that links the reader to Old Testament imagery, revelations of God, and theological events that took place on mountains. For revelations of God and theological events associated with mountains, see the chart on the Holy Mountains of God.


Jesus as the One that Moses and the Prophets Wrote About

In John 1:45, Philip identified Jesus as “the one that Moses and the prophets wrote about,” the Prophet/Messiah. Jesus questioned Philip as a test to help him fully understand the dimensions of his first revelation of Jesus’s true identity. All Philip had to do was petition Jesus to feed the crowd. He should have remembered the miraculous feeding of the multitude with manna and quail in the Exodus journey by the way Jesus framed His question. He also should have recalled when Moses asked Yahweh a question very similar to the one Jesus asked him in Numbers 11:13: “Where am I to find meat to give all these people….?” In that event, Yahweh accepted Moses’s question as a petition and provided food for the children of Israel that the people called “manna.” Philip should have understood that the Messiah had the power to do the same miracle, and he should have realized that just as God saw to the needs of the children of Israel in ancient times, so too could He meet their needs that day. However, instead of petitioning Jesus to feed the crowds, Philip’s thoughts were too earthbound, and he commented on the vast amount of money it would take the feed all the people. Two hundred denarii is a substantial sum when you consider that one denarius equaled one day’s wage for a common laborer (Mt 20:2).

This miracle feeding recalls another miraculous feeding of a multitude in the Old Testament that the disciples may have remembered from our First Reading (2 Kng 4:41-44) when the prophet Elisha also took barley loaves and fed a multitude with some bread left over. Elisha’s feeding miracle took place at the same time of year on the Feast of Firstfruits for the barley harvest, a feast celebrated during the weeklong Feast of Unleavened Bread on the day after the Saturday Sabbath. The day after the Jewish Sabbath is our Sunday, the first day of the week.


Details of the Miracle

8 One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; 9 but what good are these for so many?”  10 Jesus said, “Have the people recline.”  Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.  So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.

Simon-Peter’s brother, Andrew, perhaps remembering Elisha’s miracle, offered Jesus the boy’s barley loaves and fish that would become the meal multiplied to feed the great multitude of men, women, and children. Wheat bread was more desirable than barley bread, and since barley bread was cheaper, it was the food of the poor. The same account in Luke 11:5 seems to indicate that the loaves were small and that three loaves were an adequate meal for one person.

The Greek word for “fish,” opsarion, indicates that the two fish were salted and dried. That there were five loaves may point to five as the number symbolizing grace and power in Scripture. That there were two fish may indicate the division between those who would believe and those who would not come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah even with this sign.  Two is the number representing division in the Old Covenant and the number of Christ in His humanity and divinity as the Son of God in the New Covenant. Together, the number of loaves and fish yield the number seven, which is the number in Scripture that symbolizes fullness and spiritual perfection. It may also be important that a fish was a sign of the Church in the Old Covenant and will become the sign of the Church in the New Covenant. Here we have the Old, which will become the nucleus of the New Covenant in Christ: the two transformed into one New and eternal Covenant: the one Church that is the unified Body of Christ.

Notice that Jesus organized the crowd. Luke’s Gospel tells us that He divided them into groups of about fifty people (Lk 9:14). The count of 5,000 only included the men. Since there were also women and children, Jesus miraculously fed well over 5,000 people. So why does the text only mention 5,000? Five is a symbolic number, and multiples of symbolic numbers indicate abundance. Five is the number of grace and power. In this “sign,” there is a powerful abundance of grace, prefiguring the superabundance of the Eucharistic meal that will spiritually feed the multitudes of all races for all generations until the return of Christ the King.

11 Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted.  12 When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” 

“Gave thanks” in this passage is the Greek word eucharistein from the verb eucharisteo. Do not miss the relationship in this feeding miracle to the Most Holy Eucharist, which is an act of thanksgiving. In Temple worship, the sacred communion meal of God’s peace was called the Toda/Todah, which means “Thanksgiving.”

It was the custom of Jews and Israelites to bless the meal before eating. Jesus giving thanks reflects the Jewish use of barak/berakah “to bless/ blessing.” However, more than a simple Jewish blessing, His words foreshadow the institution of the Sacrament of the Eucharist first received at the Last Supper. He will repeat the exact words and actions in the miracle feeding of the Eucharist at the Last Supper: He blessed, He broke the bread, and He gave (Mt 26:26). His blessing also looks beyond the Last Supper to the blessing of the Eucharistic prayer that prepares the New Covenant Body of Christ to receive Him, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity at every Mass.

13 So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.

The word translated “fragments” in verse 13 is a theologically significant word. In the Greek translation, the term is klasma, but it is not in the plural as in our translation. In the Greek text, it is expressed in the singular form = “fragment left over,” indicating one whole.  Notice that John emphasizes the identity of the fragment(s) with the original loaves left over from the meal of the five barley loaves. The unique meaning of this passage was obvious to the early Church as reflected in the Eucharistic Prayer of the early Church’s first catechism, a document known as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, or more simply as The Didache (Teaching). The early Eucharistic prayer reads: “Concerning the broken bread: ‘We give Thee thanks, Our Father, for the life and knowledge which Thou hast made known to us through Jesus, Thy Servant. To Thee be the glory for evermore.  As this broken bread was scattered over the mountains and then, when gathered, became one, so may Thy Church be gathered from the ends of the earth into Thy Kingdom'” (The Didache, 9: Eucharistic Prayer, written circa 50/120AD).

Since the Didache speaks of the bread as having been first scattered over the mountains, many scholars believe that this Eucharistic prayer originated in the Holy Land. The idea of Israel being “scattered” and then “gathered” was familiar to the Jews (see Dt 28:25Jer 34:17Jud 5:23Ps 146:2; etc.). St. Cyprian beautifully develops this idea to illustrate the unity of Christ and the Church, which is “gathered” to Him (see Epistle 63.13; 69.5).  Also, notice the plural “We give Thee thanks,” which survives from this ancient prayer in the Ordinary of the Mass today and exemplifies St. Peter’s characterization of the entire Church as “a holy priesthood” (1 Pt 2:5).

14 When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”  15 Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

Religious Jews could not have missed the parallels between Jesus’s feeding miracle and the feeding miracles of Moses and the 9th century BC prophet Elisha. They could conclude from the comparison between no leftover manna in Moses’s feeding miracles and the small amount leftover in Elisha’s miracle compared to the abundance of leftover bread in Jesus’s miracle that Jesus of Nazareth was a greater prophet of God than both Elisha and Moses.

“This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”

When the people declare that Jesus must be “the Prophet,” they were referring to the prophet like Moses promised in Deuteronomy 18:15-20, the “new Moses” and the one who was to be the Messiah and Davidic king of Israel also promised by the prophets (i.e., Is 7:149:1-711:1-510-12Jer 23:5Ez 34:23-24). In the first century AD, the people were looking for the Messiah who would overthrow the Roman oppressors and reestablish their national independence. It is why they wanted to “carry him off to make him king” in verse 15. Knowing what they were thinking, Jesus withdrew and went “to the mountain alone.” The crowd’s desire for a national, political Messiah was not Jesus’s aspiration. His kingdom is heavenly and spiritual, to have spiritual dominion over the entire earth.  And the “hour” for Him to be proclaimed “king” had not yet come in God’s divine plan; that “hour” would come His last week in Jerusalem (CCC# 439).

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.  Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.

17th Sunday of Year B

LIFE RECOVERY NOTES

The Ways of an Infinite God

Job 38:8
“Who decreed the boundaries of the seas when they gushed from the depths? Who clothed them with clouds and thick darkness

New Living Translation (Hover cursor above the scripture reference to read the NRSV version)

JOB 38:2–39:30 God used a series of questions to illustrate how little Job knew about creation and God’s ways. If Job knew nothing of these mysteries, how could he know anything about God’s character? All Job could do was worship and trust God.

We, too, wonder why we suffer. We wonder why bad things happen to us and those we love. But like Job, we are finite and cannot understand the ways of our infinite God. All we can do is praise him and await his deliverance.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

Care of Responsible Shepherds

Jeremiah 23:4
Then I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again. Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the LORD, have spoken!

JER 23:1-4 Shepherds—the leaders of God’s people—who were supposed to care for God’s “sheep” had scattered and forsaken them. Since Judah’s leaders had led God’s people astray, God promised to punish the leaders and gather his people “back to their own sheepfold.” He vowed to place them in the care of responsible shepherds who would love and tend them. Jesus is our good shepherd, loving us and tending us as his flock (see John 10:1-18).

If we are willing to seek out and follow his will for our life, there is hope for us, no matter how far we may have strayed.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

Allow the Holy Spirit to Replace Your Character Flaws

Ephesians 4:2
Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

EPH 4:1-6 Even though God’s program for recovery is centered on his sovereign purposes and power, we have important responsibilities as well. What we believe about God is crucial, but so is the manner in which we live. For many of us, the recovery process is hindered by our faults, especially our stubborn pride that prevents us from taking searching and fearless inventory of our life.

Recovery is impossible until we humbly admit that we are powerless and need God’s help. As we trust God to help us, his Holy Spirit will replace our character flaws with humility, love, and patience. When God asks us to live a certain way, he provides the power we need to succeed.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

God Can Multiply Our Resources

John 6:13
So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves.

John 6:1-15  Jesus often used people as channels of his grace. In feeding 5,000 hungry men (plus women and children), Jesus used a young boy’s provisions. In effecting our recovery—or others’ recovery—God allows us to have a part in what he does. When we willingly dedicate our own small resources—time, talents, or possessions—to God, he can work a miracle of recovery for us and others. God can take our limited resources and multiply them beyond our wildest expectations.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
Gospel

Betraying God

Mark 14:18
and as they were sitting around the table eating, Jesus said, “I solemnly declare that one of you will betray me, one of you who is here eating with me.”

MK 14:10-26 We are often shocked by Judas’s betrayal of Jesus. Since Judas had spent about three years in close friendship with Jesus, we wonder what could have prompted him to act as he did.

Yet if we are truly honest with ourself, we may see the same potential in our own heart. Whenever we refuse to give Jesus authority over a certain area of our life, we act like Judas. Whenever we promise to do one thing and then do another, we act like Judas. We all have betrayed God in some way or another. We should use Judas’s failure as an opportunity to take a hard look at our own life. In what ways are we betraying God?

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
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Mark: Prelude to the Feeding of the 5,000 (Mark 6:33-34)

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Mark: A Reader-Response Commentary - The Apostles look for a Quiet Place (6.30-34)

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FEASTING ON THE GOSPELS - JOHN

Limits and Possibilities

The central contrast in this episode is between Philip’s pragmatic, sensible approach that recognizes the lack of resources, and Jesus’ resourcefulness...

GOSPEL: What constitutes “miracle,” the movement of the Spirit, in this story and in our everyday lives? Where might there be miracles in our interactions, moments of challenge and insight, or the sharing of our lives and our food? Do we see in our public witness gifts of grace that transcend our expectations? As poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning writes, “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God: but only he who sees, takes off his shoes, the rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries.”

Regardless of how we understand “miracle,” on an ordinary plane we are also invited by this story to consider our notion of limits and possibilities. The central contrast in this episode is between Philip’s pragmatic, sensible approach that recognizes the lack of resources, and Jesus’ resourcefulness that bursts the seams of the usual and expected. Jesus sheds light on the narrow-minded, limited perspectives of his disciples. For them, perhaps, the math is obvious: five loaves plus two fish divided by five thousand equals disaster—hordes of hungry, crabby people. For Jesus, though, it appears that the problem is not hunger but rather a lack of faith and, perhaps, imagination. One envisions this phrase coursing through Jesus’ mind, a refrain found in other Gospels: “You of little faith” (Matt. 14:31b).

Might this text of feasting and abundance stir our curiosity about possibilities in our lives, our work, our calling, and our relationships—possibilities that we may have missed in our shortsightedness, our insufficient faith and imagination? Is this not a story about resourcefulness and generativity, about using what we have, and about the small gift having a large impact? Often we fail to see the entire ripple effect of even a minor kindness we offer. So it is faith, once again, that is imperative, faith that God’s power is operative, that whatever we do matters, that goodness is never in vain. This text celebrates the power of belief—as Jesus proclaimed in another Gospel, “Your faith has made you well” (Mark 5:34).

SOURCE: EXCERPT taken from FEASTING ON THE GOSPELS—JOHN. All rights reserved.
AFRICA STUDY BIBLE

Christ Can Multiply Whatever Little We Have

Giving physical food—or getting involved with other earthly problems—requires spending our own resources. These sometimes seem limited...

GOSPEL:  While Jesus was giving spiritual food to the people who followed him, he did not forget about their need for physical food. The disciples thought it would seem easier to give spiritual food than to give physical food. Certainly it is easier to preach to over five thousand people than to feed those five thousand people.

Giving physical food—or getting involved with other earthly problems—requires spending our own resources. These sometimes seem limited. Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we would not have enough money to feed them!” (John 6:7)

The disciples looked at the problem rather than their potential resources. Jesus looked at the resources rather than the problem. No matter how meagre our resources, when we give them entirely for the service of the Kingdom, Christ can multiply them. A boy’s lunch in the hands of Jesus can become a feast for thousands. When the need arises, we should not run away from meeting the physical needs of people. We need to give the little we have to Jesus.

Ask God to multiply your weak and imperfect efforts. Release the little you have to God, and God will do great things as he did with the boy’s loaves and fishes.

SOURCE: Excerpt taken from THE AFRICA STUDY BIBLE
PREACHER'S COMMENTARY

What Seemed So Little Became So Vastly Much

This meal on the hillside was a sign foreshadowing that later eating and drinking which was to become a memorial of His sacrificial death

GOSPEL:  Jesus gives sacred meaning to the daily bread which graces our tables. Without Him we merely selfishly satisfy our appetites as we thoughtlessly gulp down whatever we can pick up at some fast food place. We often carelessly toss out whatever remains uneaten, filling countless garbage cans with our leftovers while two-thirds of the people of the world fiercely struggle for enough scraps to stay alive. This meal on the hillside was a sign foreshadowing that later eating and drinking which was to become a memorial of His sacrificial death. That “Last Supper” was to be a covenant that the offering of His flesh and blood, which seemed so shamefully insignificant to those non-believing bystanders, was God’s saving provision for the world’s salvation. Again what seemed so little became so vastly much.

SOURCE: Excerpt taken from THe Preacher's Commentary, Complete 35-Volume Set: Genesis–Revelation offers pastors, teachers, and Bible study leaders clear and compelling insights into the entire Bible that will equip them to understand, apply, and teach the truth in God's Word.
LIFE APPLICATION STUDY BIBLE

Age is Not a Barrier for Jesus

Never think you are too young or old to be of service to him

JOHN 6:8, 9 In performing his miracles, Jesus usually preferred to work through people. Here he took what a young child offered and used it to accomplish one of the most spectacular miracles recorded in the Gospels. Age is no barrier to Christ. Never think you are too young or old to be of service to him.

SOURCE: EXCERPT taken from LIFE APPLICATION STUDY BIBLE. All rights reserved.

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17th Sunday of Year B

JOHN 1:1-14

1. After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.

2. And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.

3. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples.

4. And the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.

5. When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may cat?

6. And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.

7. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.

8. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him,

9. There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?

10. And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.

11. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.

12. When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.

13. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.

14. Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that Prophet that should come into the world.

ANNOTATED INDEX

Third Century

  • Origen – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian) – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great” – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople) – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh) (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch) – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.) – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt) – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople) – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre) monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc) – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria

COMMENTARY

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlii. 1) As missiles rebound with great force from a hard body, and fly off in all directions, whereas a softer material retains and stops them; so violent men are only excited to greater rage by violence on the side of their opponents, whereas gentleness softens them. Christ quieted the irritation of the Jews by retiring from Jerusalem. He went into Galilee, but not to Cana again, but beyond the sea: After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.

ALCUIN. This sea hath different names, from the different places with which it is connected; the sea of Galilee, from the province; the sea of Tiberias, from the city of that name. It is called a sea, though it is not salt water, that name being applied to all large pieces of water, in Hebrew. This sea our Lord often passes over, in going to preach to the people bordering on it.

THEOPHYLACT. He goes from place to place to try the dispositions of people, and excite a desire to hear Him: And a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His miracles which He did on them that were diseased.

ALCUIN. viz. His giving sight to the blind, and other like miracles. And it should be understood, that all, whom He healed in body, He renewed likewise in soul.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlii. 1) Though favoured with such teaching, they were influenced less by it, than by the miracles; a sign of their low state of belief: for Paul says of tongues, that they are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not. (1 Cor. 14:22) They were wiser of whom it is said, that they were astonished at His doctrine. (Matt. 7:28) The Evangelist does not say what miracles He wrought, the great object of his book being to give our Lord’s discourses. It follows: And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there sat with His disciples. He went up into the mountain, on account of the miracle which was going to be done. That the disciples alone ascended with Him, implies that the people who stayed behind were in fault for not following. He went up to the mountain too, as a lesson to us to retire from the tumult and confusion of the world, and leave wisdom in solitude. And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. Observe, in a whole year, the Evangelist has told us of no miracles of Christ, except His healing the impotent man, and the nobleman’s son. His object was to give not a regular history, but only a few of the principal acts of our Lord. But why did not our Lord go up to the feast? He was taking occasion, from the wickedness of the Jews, gradually to abolish the Law.

THEOPHYLACT. The persecutions of the Jews gave Him reason for retiring, and thus setting aside the Law. The truth being now revealed, types were at an end, and He was under no obligation to keep the Jewish feasts. Observe the expression, a feast of the Jews, (Mat. 14:13) not a feast of Christ.

BEDE. If we compare the accounts of the different Evangelists, we shall find very clearly, that there was an interval of a year between the beheading of John, and our Lord’s Passion. For, since Matthew says that our Lord, on hearing of the death of John, withdrew into a desert place, where He fed the multitude; and John says that the Passover was nigh, when He fed the multitude; it is evident that John was beheaded shortly before the Passover. And at the same feast, the next year Christ suffered. It follows, When Jesus then lifted up His eyes, and saw a great company come unto Him, He saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? When Jesus lifted up His eyes, this is to shew us, that Jesus was not generally with His eyes lifted up, looking about Him, but sitting calm and attentive, surrounded by His disciples.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlii. 1) Nor did He only sit with His disciples, but conversed with them familiarly, and gained possession of their minds. Then He looked, and saw a crowd advancing. But why did He ask Philip that question? Because He knew that His disciples, and he especially, needed further teaching. For this Philip it was who said afterwards, Shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. (c. 14:8) And if the miracle had been performed at once, without any introduction, the greatness of it would not have been seen. The disciples were made to confess their own inability, that they might see the miracle more clearly; And this He said to prove him.

AUGUSTINE. (de verb. Dom. Serm. 17) One kind of temptation leads to sin, with which God never tempts any one; (James 1:13.) and there is another kind by which faith is tried. (Deut. 13:3.) In this sense it is said that Christ proved His disciple. This is not meant to imply that He did not know what Philip would say; but is an accommodation to men’s way of speaking. For as the expression, Who searcheth the hearts of men, does not mean the searching of ignorance, but of absolute knowledge; so here, when it is said that our Lord proved Philip, we must understand that He knew him perfectly, but that He tried him, in order to confirm his faith. The Evangelist himself guards against the mistake which this imperfect mode of speaking might occasion, by adding, For He Himself knew what He would do.

ALCUIN. He asks him this question, not for His own information, but in order to shew His yet unformed disciple his dulness of mind, which he could not perceive of himself.

THEOPHYLACT. Or to shew others it. He was not ignorant of His disciple’s heart Himself.

AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Evang. l. ii. c. xlvi) But if our Lord, according to John’s account, on seeing the multitude, asked Philip, tempting him, whence they could buy food for them, it is difficult at first to see how it can be true, according to the other account, that the disciples first told our Lord, to send away the multitude; and that our Lord replied, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. (Matt. 25:16) We must understand then it was after saying this, that our Lord saw the multitude, and said to Philip what John had related, which has been omitted by the rest.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlii. s. 1) Or they are two different occasions altogether.

THEOPHYLACT. Thus tried by our Lord, Philip was found to be possessed with human notions, as appears from what follows, Philip answered Him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.

ALCUIN. Wherein he shews his dulness: for, had he perfect ideas of his Creator, he would not be thus doubting His power.

AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Evan. l. ii. c. xlvi) The reply, which is attributed to Philip by John, Mark puts in the mouth of all the disciples, either meaning us to understand that Philip spoke for the rest, or else putting the plural number for the singular, which is often done.

THEOPHYLACT. Andrew is in the same perplexity that Philip is; only he has rather higher notions of our Lord: There is a lad here which hath five burley loares and two small fishes.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlii. 2.) Probably He had some reason in his mind for this speech. He would know of Elijah’s miracle, by which a hundred men were fed with twenty loaves. This was a great step; but here he stopped. He did not rise any higher. For his next words are, But what are these among so many? He thought that less could produce less in a miracle, and more more; a great mistake; inasmuch as it was as easy for Christ to feed the multitude from a few fishes as from many. He did not really want any material to work from, but only made use of created things for this purpose in order to shew that no part of the creation was severed from His wisdom.

THEOPHYLACT. This passage confounds the Manicheans, who say that bread and all such things were created by an evil Deity. The Son of the good God, Jesus Christ, multiplied the loaves. Therefore they could not have been naturally evil; a good God would never have multiplied what was evil.

AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Evang. ii. c. xlvi) Andrew’s suggestion about the five loaves and two fishes, is given as coming from the disciples in general, in the other Evangelists, and the plural number is used.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlii. 2.) And let those of us, who are given to pleasure, observe the plain and abstemious eating of those great and wonderful menb. He made the men sit down before the loaves appeared, to teach us that with Him, things that are not are as things that are; as Paul says, Who calleth those things that be not, as though they were. (Rom. 4:17.) The passage proceeds then: And Jesus said, Make the men sit down.

ALCUIN. Sit down, i. e. lie down, as the ancient custom was, which they could do, as there was much grass in the place.

THEOPHYLACT. i. e. green grass. It was the time of the Passover, which was kept the first month of the spring. So the men sat down in number about five thousand. The Evangelist only counts the men, following the direction in the law. Moses numbered the people from twenty years old and upwards, making no mention of the women; to signify that the manly and juvenile character is especially honourable in God’s eyes. And Jesus took the loaves; and when He had given thanks, He distributedc to them that were sat down: and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlii. 2.) But why when He is going to heal the impotent, to raise the dead, to calm the sea, does He not pray, but here does give thanks? To teach us to give thanks to God, whenever we sit down to eat. And He prays more in lesser matters, in order to shew that He does not pray from any motive of need. For had prayer been really necessary to supply His wants, His praying would have been in proportion to the importance of each particular work. But acting, as He does, on His own authority, it is evident, He only prays out of condescension to us. And, as a great multitude was collected, it was an opportunity of impressing on them, that His coming was in accordance with God’s will. Accordingly, when a miracle was private, He did not pray; when numbers were present, He did.

HILARY. (iii. de Trin. c. 18) Five loaves are then set before the multitude, and broken. The broken portions pass through into the hands of those who break, that from which they are broken all the time not at all diminishing. And yet there they are, the bits taken from it, in the hands of the persons breakingd. There is no catching by eye or touch the miraculous operation: that is, which was not, that is seen, which is not understood. It only remains for us to believe that God can do all things.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxiv. s. 1.) He multiplied in His hands the five loaves, just as He produces harvest out of a few grains. There was a power in the hands of Christ; and those five loaves were, as it were, seeds, not indeed committed to the earth, but multiplied by Him who made the earth.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlii. 3) Observe the difference between the servant and the lord. The Prophets received grace, as it were, by measure, and according to that measure performed their miracles: whereas Christ, working this by His own absolute power, produces a kind of superabundant result. When they were filled, He said unto His disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments. This was not done for needless ostentation, but to prevent men from thinking the whole a delusion; which was the reason why He made use of an existing material to work from. But why did He give the fragments to His disciples to carry away, and not to the multitude? Because the disciples were to be the teachers of the world, and therefore it was most important that the truth should be impressed upon them. Wherefore I admire not only the multitude of the loaves which were made, but the definite quantity of the fragments; neither more nor less than twelve baskets full, and corresponding to the number of the twelve Apostles.

THEOPHYLACT. We learn too from this miracle, not to be pusillanimous in the greatest straits of poverty.

BEDE. When the multitude saw the miracle our Lord had done, they marvelled; as they did not know yet that He was God. Then those men, the Evangelist adds, i. e. carnal men, whose understanding was carnal, when they had perceived the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that Prophet that should come into the world.

ALCUIN. Their faith being as yet weak, they only call our Lord a Prophet, not knowing that He was God. But the miracle had produced considerable effect upon them, as it made them call our Lord that Prophet, singling Him out from the rest. They call Him a Prophet, because some of the Prophets had worked miracles; and properly, inasmuch as our Lord calls Himself a Prophet; It cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. (Luke 13:33)

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxiv. s. 7) Christ is a Prophet, and the Lord of Prophets; as He is an Angel, and the Lord of Angels. In that He came to announce something, He was an Angel; in that He foretold the future, He was a Prophet; in that He was the Word made flesh, He was Lord both of Angels and Prophets; for none can be a Prophet without the word of God.

CHRYSOSTOM. Their expression, that should come into the world, shews that they expected the arrival of some great Prophet. And this is why they say, This is of a truth that Prophet: the article being put in the Greek, to shew that He was distinct from other Prophets.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxiv. s. 1, 2) But let us reflect a little here. Forasmuch as the Divine Substance is not visible to the eye, and the miracles of the divine government of the world, and ordering of the whole creation, are overlooked in consequence of their constancy; God has reserved to Himself acts, beside the established course and order of nature, to do at suitable times; in order that those who overlooked the daily course of nature, might be roused to wonder by the sight of what was different from, though not at all greater, than what they were used to. The government of the world is a greater miracle, than the satisfying the hunger of five thousand with five loaves; and yet no one wonders at this: the former excited wonder; not from any real superiority in it, but because it was uncommon. But it would be wrong to gather no more than this from Christ’s miracles: for, the Lord who is on the mounte, and the Word of God which is on high, the same is no humble person to be lightly passed over, but we must look up to Him reverently.

ALCUIN. Mystically, the sea signifies this tumultuous world. In the fulness of time, when Christ had entered the sea of our mortality by His birth, trodden it by His death, passed over it by His resurrectionf, then followed Him crowds of believers, both from the Jews and Gentiles.

BEDE. Our Lord went up to the mountain, when He ascended to heaven, which is signified by the mountain.

ALCUIN. His leaving the multitude below, and ascending the heights with His disciples, signifies, that lesser precepts are to be given to beginners, higher to the more matured. His refreshing the people shortly before the Passover signifies our refreshment by the bread of the divine word; and the body and blood, i. e. our spiritual passover, by which we pass over from vice to virtue. And the Lord’s eyes are spiritual gifts, which he mercifully bestows on His Elect. He turns His eyes upon them, i. e. has compassionate respect unto them.

AUGUSTINE. (lib. lxxxiii. Quæst. q. 61. in princ.) The five barley loaves signify the old law; either because the law was given to men not as yet spiritual, but carnal, i. e. under the dominion of the five senses, (the multitude itself consisted of five thousand:) or because the Law itself was given by Moses in five books. And the loaves being of barley is also an allusion to the Law, which concealed the soul’s vital nourishment, under carnal ceremonies. For in barley the corn itself is buried under the most tenacious husk. Or, it alludes to the people who were not yet freed from the husk of carnal appetite, which cling to their heart.

BEDE. (Hom. in Luc. c. vi.) Barley is the food of cattle and slaves: and the old law was given to slaves and cattle, i. e. to carnal men.

AUGUSTINE. (lib. lxxxiv. Quæst. qu. 61) The two fishes again, that gave the pleasant taste to the bread, seem to signify the two authorities by which the people were governed, the Royal, viz. and the Priestly; both of which prefigure our Lord, who sustained both characters.

BEDE. Or, by the two fishes are meant the saying or writings of the Prophets, and the Psalmist. And whereas the number five refers to the five senses, a thousand stands for perfection. But those who strive to obtain the perfect government of their five senses, are called men, in consequence of their superior powers: they have no womanly weaknesses; but by a sober and chaste life, earn the sweet refreshment of heavenly wisdom.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxiv. 5) The boy who had these is perhaps the Jewish people, who, as it were, carried the loaves and fishes after a servile fashion, and did not eat them. That which they carried, while shut up, was only a burden to them; when opened became their food.

BEDE. (Aug. xxiv. 5) And well is it said, But what are these among so many? The Law was of little avail, till He took it into His hand, i. e. fulfilled it, and gave it a spiritual meaning. The Law made nothing perfect. (Heb. 7:19)

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxiv. s. 5) By the act of breaking He multiplied the five loaves. The five books of Moses, when expounded by breaking, i. e. unfolding them, made many books.

AUGUSTINE. (lib. lxxxiii. Quæst. qu. 61) Our Lord by breaking, as it were, what was hard in the Law, and opening what was shut, that time when He opened the Scriptures to the disciples after the resurrection, brought the Law out in its full meaning.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxiv. s. 5) Our Lord’s question proved the ignorance of His disciples, i. e. the people’s ignorance of the Law. They lay on the grass, i. e. were carnally minded, rested in carnal things, for all flesh is grass. (Isa. 40:6) Men are filled with the loaves, when what they hear with the ear, they fulfil in practice.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxiv. s. 6) And what are the fragments, but the parts which the people could not eat? An intimation, that those deeper truths, which the multitude cannot take in, should be entrusted to those who are capable of receiving them, and afterwards teaching them to others; as were the Apostles. For which reason twelve baskets were filled with them.

ALCUIN. Baskets are used for servile work. The baskets here are the Apostles and their followers, who, though despised in this present life, are within filled with the riches of spiritual sacraments. The Apostles too are represented as baskets, because, that through them, the doctrine of the Trinity was to be preached in the four parts of the world. His not making new loaves, but multiplying what there were, means that He did not reject the Old Testament, but only developed and explained it.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000 Commentary in public domain.

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