After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, near Tiberias, and large crowds followed him, because of the miraculous signs they saw, when he healed the sick. So he went up into the hills and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.
Then lifting up his eyes, Jesus saw the crowds that were coming to him, and said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread so that these people may eat?” He said this to test Philip, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred silver coins would not buy enough bread for each of them to have a piece.”
Then one of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”
Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there, so the people, about five thousand men, sat down. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish, and gave them as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten enough, he told his disciples, “Gather up the pieces left over, that nothing may be lost.”
So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with bread, that is, with pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
When the people saw the miracle which Jesus had performed, they said, “This is really the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Jesus realized that they would come and take him by force to make him king; so he fled to the hills by himself.
“None are so poor that they have nothing to give and none are so rich that they have nothing to receive.” (Pope John Paul II)
The little boy was poor and had a simple meal. But he was generous (Lat. gener, race, kin) with his meal and did not keep it. What makes this miracle phenomenal is the generosity of the little boy. Generosity had been originally considered a trait of an aristocrat, of noble lineage or high birth. To be generous was literally a way of saying “to belong to nobility.” It was never considered a trait of ordinary people. Children and widows were not included in the Biblical count. They were anonymous. The boy was not of “noble birth” and not expected to be generous. The Gospel turns the world upside down.
“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” (Albert Pike) This miracle story is told again and again primarily because of what Jesus did, and secondarily what the little boy shared, especially in comparison with the weak faith and little concern of the apostles for the people’s plight.
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