Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan
Feeding the Five Thousand
The first Christian communities gave a major importance to the miracle of the Feeding the Five Thousand, so much that all four Evangelists rigorously recorded this miracle in their Gospels (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-14). Obviously, they wanted nothing to get lost from the memories of their community.
And they were not mistaken in giving this miracle a privileged place in their Gospel, for this multiplication of food for a crowd in a deserted place had an extraordinary symbolic significance. It was a gesture that was directed towards the past, the present and the future.
Towards the past, for it recalled the gift of manna in the desert, and thus the tireless providence of God for his people throughout its history. Here Jesus shows to all that He continues the work of the Father with the same solicitude. The main purpose is that no one dies of hunger. The will of Christ is to make his people live. "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10)
For the present, the miracle was meant to convince the people who were there of Jesus’ divinity. Only the Son of God could do such a miraculous things. But also, because Jesus and his disciples faced a tremendous problem. They had a huge, hungry crowd in front of them, no money and no KFC nearby. They had two fish, and five bits of bread—food enough only for one, perhaps two if they were light eaters. And yet, with Jesus, what they had was enough. He was able to take what they offered, and do something amazing with it.
Beyond the material hunger of men Jesus is aiming for a more radical hunger, which He alone can fill: the spiritual hunger, the hunger of the word of God. Nurtured by Jesus with the crowd in the desert, the Apostles, in their turn, will have to nourish the people of God with the bread of Jesus, the bread of his revelation and the living bread of his risen Body. “You give them something to eat.” (Matthew 14:16)
And this is where the miracle of the loaves points to the future. The bread to satiety in the desert prefigures the Holy Communion that Jesus will give to his disciples the day before his death. In this miracle we can clearly hear the Eucharistic implications: “he took the bread … he blessed … he broke it and gave it to them.” (Matthew 14:19)
Two thousand years later we still gather in the same hope of experiencing Jesus Christ in our lives through the breaking of the bread. Every Sunday when the crowd of millions of Christians to the ends of the earth is satiated and strengthened by the gift of Jesus, gathered and unified by His Body and Blood, we perceive more clearly how our Holy Communion Summarizes and condenses for us the whole history of salvation: past, future and present.
Every Sunday, the celebration of the Badarak turns our eyes to the past, to the historical truth of the evening in the Upper Room, when Jesus established and gave the first Holy Communion to his disciples asking them: “Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
Then it brings us back to the present, because in the sacrament of the Holy Communion Jesus is really present to those who receive him. His flesh is real food and his blood is real drink because both nourish, sustain us and keep us spiritually healthy. As we eat and drink from the same cup the Holy Communion becomes a sign of the unity that we share and at the same time it also makes us one in Christ.
The Communion is food for our journey, medicine for our health and strength for our future. It is not only about the past and the present, but it also directs us towards the future. The Communion is a pledge of future glory, the heavenly banquet that God has promised to those who will believe in His Son. Indeed, what we experience in the Communion is a foretaste of an eternal feast with God.
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.” Ephesians 1:3