Jesus instructed His Apostles to celebrate the Eucharist in memory of Him. And the ministry of the Twelve is subtly stressed in today's account.
In Jesus and the Church, Isaiah's promises in today's First Reading are fulfilled. All who are thirsty come to the living waters of Baptism (see John 4:14). The hungry delight in rich fare -- given bread to eat and wine to drink at the Eucharistic table.
This is the point, too, of today's Gospel. The story of Jesus' feeding of the 5,000 brims with allusions to the Old Testament. Jesus is portrayed as a David-like shepherd who leads His flock to lie down on green grass as He spreads the table of the Messiah's banquet before them (see Psalm 23).
Jesus is shown as a new Moses, who likewise feeds vast crowds in a deserted place. Finally, Jesus is shown doing what the prophet Elisha did -- satisfying the hunger of the crowd with a few loaves and having some left over (see 2 Kings 4:42--44).
Matthew also wants us to see the feeding of the 5,000 as a sign of the Eucharist. Notice that Jesus performs the same actions in the same sequence as at the Last Supper -- He takes bread, says a blessing, breaks it, and gives it (see Matthew 26:26).
Jesus instructed His Apostles to celebrate the Eucharist in memory of Him. And the ministry of the Twelve is subtly stressed in today's account. Before He performs the miracle, Jesus instructs the Twelve to give the crowd "some food yourselves." Indeed, the Apostles themselves distribute the bread blessed by Jesus (see Matthew 15:36).
And the leftovers are enough to fill precisely 12 baskets -- corresponding to each of the Apostles, the pillars of the Church (see Galatians 2:9; Revelation 21:14).
In the Church, as we sing in today's Psalm, God gives us food in due season, opens His hands and satisfies the desires of every living thing. Now, as Paul reminds us in today's Epistle, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 145:8--9, 15--18
Romans 8:35, 37--39
- Scott Hahn is the founder and president of the Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology. He is also the bestselling author of numerous books including The Lamb's Supper, Reasons to Believe, and Rome Sweet Home (co-authored with his wife, Kimberly). Some of his newest books are The Creed, Joy to the World and Evangelizing Catholics.