Catering for our fears – John 6:1-21 Ordinary 17B

John 6:1-21

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

If I have a besetting obsession, and I have quite a few, then it is the obsession that there will not be enough.
I am not one of those organised householders who never enter a supermarket without having first written a list of what they need to buy. I tend to find myself in the aisles and then wondering what it is I need to get for the home.
So it was a few months back that each time I was shopping I convinced myself that I needed to get dishwashing liquid, only to get home and discover that I had enough. In fact, thanks to my obsessing, I now have six bottles of dishwashing liquid patiently waiting on the shelf.
It isn’t just soap that can get me obsessing about not having enough. I can do that with just about anything from pencils to my pension fund.
Will there be enough?
Every year I receive a printout from my pension fund. It is a simple spreadsheet that shows what my pension will be if I retire at a certain age. Of course the longer I keep working the higher pension will be.
When I studied the table last year I extrapolated that if I could keep working till I was 98 years old I could retire as a wealthy man!.
Will there be enough?
The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is a miracle that addresses our fears of paucity and penury.
The bottom line of the miracle is that there is always enough.
We all know the angle on this passage made famous by that great commentator William Barclay. Barclay suggested that the miracle may be simply explained as the crowd, seeing the generosity and trust of the small lad sharing his lunch, themselves being moved to pool their resources to the point of abundance and twelve baskets of leftovers. (One for every tribe of Israel).
Barclay may not be correct, but however the miracle worked on a material level a few things are clear.

  • Firstly, when Jesus is present there will be nourishment for all.
  • Secondly, simple trust and Eucharistic celebration (took, thanked, broke, gave) are key to communal kingdom living.
  • Thirdly, the divine providence is profligate. There are leftovers.

It doesn’t rteally matter if it is dinner, dishwashing liquid or pension funds.
For lilies and sparrows, crowds or individuals, God caters for our every need.


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