Beginning today for five weeks of Sunday we shall hear from the sixth chapter of John to discover and experience the mystery of the person of Jesus Christ. Taking off from where Mark left us last week when Jesus and His apostles crossed the lake to rest at a deserted place, John now introduces us to the long but beautiful bread of life discourse of Jesus Christ: Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.(Jn.6:1-2)
John’s gospel is also known as “the book of signs” wherein he arranged the major miracles of Jesus as revelations of His being the awaited Messiah or Christ. But unlike the other evangelists, John preferred to call these miracles as “signs”, from the Greek “semeion”that denotes the existence and character of unseen, deeper reality. The word miracle is from Latin “mirum oculis” or something that causes wonder when seen or beheld. But a sign is deeper in meaning that John preferred to use it to show that the healings and other acts performed by Jesus are proofs and evidence that indeed He is the Christ. In doing so, John is inviting us to see more beyond the healings and other acts by Jesus the deeper realities He wishes to reveal and share with us to be experienced too. He wants us to shift our perceptions of persons and things to higher levels. Like Jesus Christ, John wants us to see beyond material things for every detail can be a bearer of meaning, a sign of deeper reality and of Christ Himself. Let us try:
Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” 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; but what good are these for so many?”(Jn.6:3-9)
Imagine standing there with Jesus, looking at the great crowd of people coming. It was getting dark, the feast of Passover was approaching and you were at a deserted place. Then suddenly Jesus asks you like Philip where can we buy enough food for them to eat?
Notice that if we examine the Lord at how He looked at the situation, it could lead to a shift in our perception from scarcity to plenty by first seeing the people coming as persons who need to be fed and cared for. Jesus felt their hunger and thirst, seeing them as brothers and sisters. It was an opportunity for Him to teach them some lessons about God. Unfortunately, the disciples saw the opposite – it was a big problem. Philip even viewed it as a nightmare when he told Jesus that even “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” The same thing with Andrew who found a boy with five loaves of bread and two fish not good enough for everyone. They saw it as a hopeless situation.
This is perhaps one of the main tragedies of our time when we begin to see and look at people as problems and mere statistics. We have failed and even refused to see each one as a person to be loved and cherished! Andrew did not even bother to ask the name of the boy and just brought him to Jesus with his bread and fish. Exactly how in media these days people are objectified and made into things, referring to persons with demonstrative pronouns this and that or ito at iyan in Filipino. On the other hand, objects are subjectified like food as “he/she’s delicious” or “masarap siya”. Sometimes I fear that one day PAGASA might even ask us priests to baptize typhoons as forecasters keep on referring to them like a human being: ang bagyon si Josie ay kumikilos pakanluran at may lakas siya ng hanging na… The most glaring sign of how low we have come to regard persons came from Congress during the SONA when Duterte reiterated the relentless continuation of his anti-drug campaign based on his erroneous view that human rights and human lives are two distinct realities. The list of instances continues when we take people for granted especially women and children when we give more emphases on things like money and clothes than persons. There is always more than enough bread for everyone when we learn to stop looking at everyone as a commodity to be bought and used. In the first reading, the prophet Elisha highly regarded those around him as persons who need to be fed with food that he had to remind his servant there was enough for everyone. With God, there are always plenty of bread for everyone but to the devil, there is never enough that is why its first temptation to Jesus was to turn stones into bread, the temptation to always take people for granted.
There is no doubt in the powers of Jesus Christ and most of all of His knowing what to do when in such difficult situations. Inasmuch as we trust in His powers, we also need to see others as brothers and sisters who are beloved by the Father. John mentioned in our gospel today the setting of this feeding of 5000 when the Jewish feast of Passover was near to show us the Eucharistic nature of the sign. How wonderful to remember that during His supper, Jesus took the same gestures at the wilderness and gave the bread to His disciples, saying “This is my body which will be given up for you.” Notice how there in the wilderness that the Son of God who had become man like us took on a body to remind everybody is a somebody and no one is a nobody. We are all bread meant to be shared and broken with one another for we are all one Body in Christ as Paul reminds us today in his letter to the Ephesians. Amen.Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022
*Photo from Google.