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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Mat. 14:13–21. Mark 6:30–44. Luke 9:10–17. John 6:1–13]

THE Feast of the Passover being at hand, the apostles returned to their Divine Master, and gave Him an account of all they had done. But He said to them: “Come ye apart into a desert place, and rest a little.” For there were so many coming and going that they had no time to eat. So they sailed across the lake and went into a retired spot. But even there the people followed them in large numbers.

Jesus, seeing this great multitude, had compassion on them, and, without giving Himself any rest, went up into a mountain. There He sat with His apostles and disciples, and began to teach them many things. When He had finished His discourse, He cured the sick that were brought to Him.

Now the day was already far spent, and His disciples came to Him and said: “Send them away, that going into the next villages and towns, they may buy themselves meat to eat, for we are here in a desert place.” Jesus said: “They have no need to go. Give you them to eat.” He then inquired how much bread they had. Andrew replied that there were only five loaves and two fishes. Jesus said: “Bring them hither to me, and make the men sit down.”

When the multitude, numbering five thousand men, besides women and children, had sat down on the grass, Jesus took the loaves and fishes, and, looking up to heaven, blessed them, and gave to His apostles to distribute among the people.

Now all the people ate and were satisfied. And Jesus ordered His disciples to gather up the fragments, lest they should be lost. They did so, and filled twelve baskets with the remainder of the five loaves and two fishes. The multitude, seeing this wonderful miracle, said among themselves: “This is the Prophet indeed, that is to come into the world.”

Jesus knowing their thoughts, and fearing that they would make Him king by force, told his disciples to sail across the water, while He Himself went up into the mountain to pray.

It was dark when the disciples went into the ship. They had rowed about twenty or thirty furlongs in the direction of Capharnaum, and it was now almost the fourth watch of the night, when suddenly a storm arose, and the sea swelled, and the ship was tossed with the waves. But, behold, Jesus came to them walking upon the sea; and drawing near the ship, He was going to pass them by; they knew Him not. They were troubled, and cried out, and thought it was an apparition. Immediately Jesus spoke to them: “Have a good heart; it is I, fear not.” Then they were all astonished.

But Peter said: “Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come to Thee upon the waters.” Jesus said: “Come.” Peter left the ship, and walked upon the water, but, seeing the high waves, he feared, and began to sink. He cried out: “Lord, save me.” Jesus stretched forth his hand, took hold of him and said: “O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?” They returned to the ship, and the wind ceased. Then those that were in the ship cried out: “Thou art truly the Son of God.” Presently the ship was at the place to which they were going. When they had landed, the people brought the sick to Him, and He healed them, and all those who touched His garments were made whole.

Our Lord’s Omnipotence. St. Augustine writes thus about the miracle of the loaves and fishes: “Jesus multiplied the bread in His Hands by virtue of the same power wherewith God multiplies a few grains of corn into a waving cornfield. The five loaves were like unto those grains of corn which, when sown, do not lie unfruitful in the ground, but to which increase is immediately given by Him who is the creator of the world.” Thus the miraculous multiplication of the loaves showed forth the creative Omnipotence of our Lord, proving Him to be the Almighty God who every year multiplies the grains of corn which are sown in the earth.

Figure of the Holy Eucharist. The great miracle of the loaves and fishes is one of the most striking figures of the Blessed Eucharist, in which the Saviour of the world nourishes the souls of countless millions of His faithful people.

The object of the miracle of the loaves. Besides the common object of all our Lord’s miracles, viz. the increase of men’s faith in Him, this miracle had one special object, viz. to foreshadow, and to prepare men’s hearts for the marvellous Food which He gives us in the most holy Sacrament of the altar—the gift which He promised on the following day. Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist feeds the souls of the faithful with the most precious bread from heaven, multiplying His own Body, and distributing It by the hands of His priests. And with this heavenly Food all are satisfied, for it appeases our spiritual hunger by uniting us to our Lord Jesus, the author of all grace.

The Goodness of Jesus. He had compassion on the people, teaching them and healing their sick. He fed the multitude which followed Him with food both for their bodies and their souls; and because they were so eager to hear His word that they forgot to supply themselves with food, He supplied them with it by a wonderful miracle. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things (which are necessary for the life of the body) shall be added unto you.”

Grace at meals. Before multiplying and distributing the bread, Jesus raised His eyes to heaven and prayed. Thus we, before and after our meals, ought to raise our hearts to God, from whom all good things come.

Waste. The words of our Lord bid us also to beware of wastefulness: “Gather up the fragments, lest they be lost.” It is wrong to allow the gifts of God to be wasted. What is left over from our food should, if possible, be given to the poor, and, if not, to animals.

The annual multiplication of food. The wonderful miracle of the loaves ought to remind us how every year God gives increase to the seed which we sow. For example, ten grains of wheat sown in the ground produce three or four hundred grains: one small potato produces from ten to twenty potatoes, and so forth with everything. Now, who has given to the seed its power of germinating in the ground, of growing up, and of bearing fruit? Who sends the sunshine, dew and rain, without which no seed can thrive? It is God. The annual increase of food is the work of God’s Omnipotence. We do not call it a miracle, for it all happens in what we call the course of nature, and we are so accustomed to it that it makes no impression on us. “The wonderful way in which God governs the world and provides for all His creatures makes no impression on us. His marvels are so constantly occurring that we scarcely observe His wonderful action in every little grain of corn &c. It is on this account that sometimes, in His mercy, God performs wonders out of the course of nature, so that men may realize the marvel (not because it is greater than what is constantly occurring, but only more unusual), since the every-day wonders make no impression on us. The government of creation is really a greater marvel than the feeding of five thousand with five loaves, but whereas no one marvels at the one, all men were astounded at the other, not because it was greater, but because it was more unusual” (St. Augustine).

The Divinity of our Lord. Our Lord wrought four miracles in the early dawn after the miracle of the loaves-miracles of a new kind, which on that account made a great impression on the apostles, and so quickened their faith, that they cried out: “Thou art the Son of God!” 1. Jesus Himself walked on the sea, stepping as easily and firmly over the seething waves as He would have done on dry land. He did not work this miracle on any one else, but by it He manifested Himself as a supernatural Being transcending the ordinary laws of nature. As He trod the dark abyss of water, He stood forth as the Lord of creation, being subject to the otherwise inexorable laws of nature (such as gravitation) only in so far as He pleased. 2. At our Lord’s bidding St. Peter walked on the water, and was kept up by an invisible power. 3. When our Lord entered the ship, the storm was immediately quieted, and 4. the ship instantly arrived at its destination.

The object of these miracles. These four miracles, in common with the preceding miracle of the loaves, and the miracle which followed of healing the sick by the very touch of His garments, had the object of quickening and strengthening the apostles’ faith and of preparing them for the revelation of the great mystery of faith, the Real Presence of our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. The miracle of our Lord walking on the water was intended to explain to them the attributes of His glorified Body; and the healing of the sick by the touch of His garments foreshadowed the effects of receiving His Sacred Body, which our Lord described in the next chapter. If the very touch of His garments could heal the sick, surely it is not hard to believe that a soul can obtain everlasting life by receiving His Body and Blood.

The faith and love of St. Peter are remarkable, and show us why our Lord Jesus Christ chose this particular apostle to be the rock on which to build His Church. All the apostles recognised our Lord’s Voice, but only to St. Peter did it occur to hasten across the water to meet Him. St. Chrysostom says: “Behold how great were the faith and love of the apostle! His faith made him say: Jesus not only can walk on the water Himself, but He can make others walk with Him! He did not say: ‘Lord, teach me to walk on the waves’, but: ‘Lord, bid me come to Thee!’ It was not for display, but for pure love of Jesus, that he demanded this great miracle.”

APPLICATION. Do you always say your grace at meals? Do you say it devoutly, or carelessly?

The great miracles you have heard about ought to strengthen your faith in Jesus and His divine word. Say to our Lord joyfully and with deep conviction: “Truly, Thou art the Son of God!” Pray to Him every day to increase your faith and to keep it from wavering.








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