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The banquet of the word and the bread

Luke takes an episode from the life of Jesus—the multiplication of the loaves—and rereads it in view of the Eucharist. 
 
The deserted place (v.12) has a theological significance: remember the journey of the people of Israel who, having left the land of slavery, started their journey to freedom and were fed with manna. 
 
The community that celebrates the Eucharist consists of travellers that are making an exodus. They have the courage to abandon their homes, their villages, friends, the kind of life they led––and they set out to listen to the Master and be cared for by him. Like Israel they entered the wilderness and they walked to freedom. 
 
Jesus orders the 12 to feed the crowds (vv.12-14). The first reaction of the 12 is amazement, surprise, the feeling of being called to a tremendous, absurd and impossible undertaking.
 
They suggest sending the people home, push them away, disperse. 
 
The disciples do not realise the gift that Jesus is going to deliver in their hands: the bread of the word and the Eucharistic bread. They do not understand that his blessing will multiply this food that satisfies every hunger endlessly: the hunger for happiness, love, justice, peace, the need to give meaning to life, the anxiety for a new world.
 
It is about the urgent needs that at times push people to feed on what does not satisfy, what can actually exacerbate hunger or cause nausea. For this the Master insists: it is from you that the world is waiting for food, you yourselves give them something to eat.
 
His word is bread that miraculously multiplies: who accepts the gospel and nourishes one’s life with it; who assimilates the person of Christ feeding on the Eucharistic bread and in turn feels the need to make others sharers in his own discovery and joy. 
 
He also starts to distribute to them the bread that satisfied his own hunger. An unstoppable process of sharing is triggered and the 12 baskets of leftovers remain always filled and ready for redistribution. The more people feed on the bread of the word of Christ and the Eucharist, the more it multiplies.
 
The formula that describes the multiplication of bread is known to us, “He took the five loaves and two fish, and raising his eyes to heaven, pronounced a blessing over them; he broke them and gave them” (v.16).
 
These are the gestures made by the celebrant in the celebration of the Eucharist (cf. Luke 22:19).
 
It almost seems that Luke is profaning the words of the sacramental act a bit, confounding things of the earth with those of heaven, the material needs with those of the spirit. 
 
This mingling of matter and spirit is not dangerous for the faith. The opposite is dangerous: unbinding the Eucharist from the lives of people, taking it among the clouds. 
 
Eucharistic celebrations are lies when they do not celebrate the concrete commitment of all the community. 
 
 
● Father Fernando Armellini SCJ
   Claretian Publications
   bibleclaret.org
   
Translated by Father John Ledesma SDB
Abridged by Father Thomas Thennedyil CMF