Nick Huck ’06 M.Ed.
The multiplication of the loaves and fish is a well-known miracle, so perhaps some attention could be directed towards the beginning of this passage. Jesus’ cousin—the one who prepared his way—dies and Jesus needs time to himself, likely to grieve and pray. His desire for time alone shows his humanity. We can all relate to Jesus in this moment—we experience times where we prefer time to ourselves or prefer to do our own thing.
But the crowds follow Jesus and he welcomes them instead of sending them away. Jesus sacrifices his own wants, desires, and needs for the benefit of others. Those benefits were many! Jesus cured the sick and performed the multiplication of the loaves and fish, and he also likely encouraged them to forgive and be generous to the poor. The crowd receives life both spiritually and physically through Jesus’ self-sacrifice.
As with the Paschal mystery, Jesus’ dying to self—neglecting his own wants—in service to others brings them new life.
St. Irenaeus boldly stated that “God became man so man could become God.” It is worth reflecting upon the opportunities we have to die to ourselves, which will bring about new life in others. In doing so, we participate in the Paschal mystery.
Perhaps these opportunities might be when we wash the dishes for our spouse when we’d prefer to watch TV, help a colleague when it means we’ll have extra work ourselves, play catch with our children when we’re tired, or spend a Saturday volunteering when we’d prefer to relax or run errands. Each instance of dying to our selfish desires presents an opportunity for others to be raised up—to receive the spiritual nourishment the crowds received from Jesus.