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July 22, 1994

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'2:!, 1994 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 9 --- Commentary-- Withdrawal from Judea to Galilee: Jesus feeds five thousand Gospel commentary for July 24, 1994, Seventeenth Sun- day, Ordinary  Time, Cycle B, John 6:1.15. The Gospel of Mark now takes a five-week vacation to allow us to Ludy John. In the arrangement of t  Gospel of John, Jesus had apent some time in Jerusalem. There he came into considerable conflict with the religious estab- lishment. It was time to leave town aad let matters cool down. Jesus heads north to Galilee, the land t aat can properly be called his fa- t rla rod. John opens an episode by noting that CrOwds followed him because they saw the "signs" that Jesus did. The Gospel of John refers to Jesus' iracles as signs. It is John's practice to use a mira- cle of Jesus to symbolize an important teaching. Thus the miracle becomes a sign pointing to that teaching. John gives two clues to set the stage for the in- t !rpretation of the miracle or sign through which d ;us feeds 5,000 people. First, Jesus goes up the Ountain. Secondly, John notes that it was the feast fPassover. The reference to the mountain is to call the reader's attention to Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai: The reference to Passover Calls to mind the release of the Israelites from slav- ery and their entrance into this wilderness. In this lderness they were fed with food from heaven, the aanr=a. A dialogue about food now takes place between Jesus and the disciple Philip. Thomas Aquinas said Jesus turned to Philip for advice, not that he needed By FATHER ] DON DILGER it, but because Philip was some- what slow mentally and needed to be pulled along. Jesus wants to feed the crowd. Philip reminds him of the vast sum of money needed to buy food for so many. Andrew, an- otherdisciple, notes that there was a boy present with five barley loaves and two fish. Jesus gives the order to have the crowd sit down and the rest is history, though not necessarily so. Again we turn to the Hebrew Scriptures, our Old Testament, to see what background stories might have influence on the formation of the episode of Jesus feeding five thousand people. The obvious connection is between Jesus and Moses, between followers of Jesus and followers of Moses. As Moses fed the multitude of Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai, so does Jesus in the wilderness of the vicinity of Galilee. The fish are also included in a background story. In Numbers 11:21-22 Moses speaks to Yahweh: "The people among whom I am number 600,000 on foot .... Shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them?" As to the barley bread, there is a story about the prophet Elisha who ordered his servant to feed 100 men with grain and 20 loaves of barley bread. It was after the servant objected that this was not sufficient food. The Elisha story ends with the words: "They ate and had some left," just as there were leftovers of the five barley loaves in the Gospel of John. More important, however, for the story is the comparison between Jesus and Moses. The com- parison with Moses leads to a still greater compar- ison later on. Jesus will say later: "It was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives (i.e. right now) the true bread from heaven. In other words, Jesus not only has replaced Moses, he also replaces Yahweh. This is characteristic of John's gospel. What is said of Yahweh in the Old Testament is applied to Jesus in the New Testa- ment. Of Yahweh it is said in respect to the manna: "It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat, "Numbers 16:15. In Psalm 78:24-25, "He rained down upon them manna to eat .... He sent them food in abundance." There was a Jewish tradition that in the messianic age the manna would again be released from heaven. We may assume that this tradition and the traditions about Moses, Elijah, and Yahweh feeding the people are all in the mind of the author of the Gospel of John. Whatever did happen, whatever the historical core &John's story might be, biography of Jesus o r the intention to tell it as it was are not in John's mind. His approach is always theological as can be seen in the long discourse that will follow the feed- ing of the 5,000. Since our reading today separates the miracle from the discourse we try to find an ap- plication for ourselves in the miracle story itself. Jesus involves the disciples in feeding the crowd. It is they who bring the loaves and fish to Jesus. God still feeds his people but it is up to us to provide the wherewithal to do it. Food does not fall from the sky. It grows from the ground. Like the disciples, both farmers and those who contribute money for the poor are enabling Jesus to feed the multitude. John portrays Jesus as first responding to the phys- ical needs of the people. Only then does he turn to the spiritual. That is our pattern. Readings: H Kings 4:42.44; Ephesians 4:1.6. : : U ' II m :, I,00cal pro-I,fe organ,zat,ons CONVENIENT Courses are offered in an executive weekend format. CHALLENGING High-quality, respected faculty to help you reach your fullest potential. AFFORDABLE $3,000 tuition for the 1994-95 year. Financial aid is available for all students. Decide tiay. Classes begin August 27, 1994. For more information, call Brescia College at (800) 264-1234 Monday - Friday, 8:00 AM - 4:30 PM, CDT. / 1 / Frcderlca Street BRESCIA COLLEGE Oweasboro, Kentucky 42301 (502) 685-3 t.31 |