“What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race…” Yesterday Jesus gives hearing and speech to a man without either; today He feeds four thousand people. But we already know He is capable of this and more. What, then, does this Gospel hold for us?
Notice that Jesus tells His disciples that His “heart is moved with pity for the crowd”; it is always Love that moves Jesus to act. In speaking with His disciples, He is shedding light on the need of the people, helping the disciples to see them in the same Light. But the disciples struggle to see clearly: “Where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them here in this deserted place?”
If only they saw the True Manna, there before them in the desert! (John 6:31-33) Perhaps the Gospel writer tells us the number of the crowd not to impress us with what Jesus did (even feeding a few dozen people in this way would be impressive!), but rather to show us how difficult it was for the disciples to imagine a solution to the problem before them. Seven loaves and a few fish for four thousand people? Their prospects were dim indeed.
Jesus, who speaks a word and heals the deaf and mute man, then asks the disciples what food they have. We often assume this is because He plans to use what they have, but what if there is a deeper question here? What if He is really testing them, to see if one of them has allowed the Light to penetrate so deeply that he might respond, “Lord, we have only you; you are enough!”
But they see by a natural light, and so they bring forward their bread and fish. The very God who created man from dust and woman from his rib fashions food for thousands from these meager offerings: those who came to see the Light, and those disciples who have lived in the Light for some time, together come to know the Light as He reveals Himself in this miracle. We offer bread and wine at Mass, which represent the offering we make of our very selves, and what does God do with these simple things?
He transforms them into Christ. Baptism, Eucharist; the entire Sacramental life, the whole point of our Christian faith is to aid us in being utterly consumed by the fire of God’s Spirit, to become like Jesus, the Light of the World. “You are the light of the world,” He told us on Sunday, after which He fed us the True Bread come down from Heaven, His own Flesh and Blood, that we might have His life within us.
Then, at the end of it all, He tells us, in the voice of our pastor, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life”; in that same Gospel He said, “…your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
Go forth, and shine brightly in this dark world.