Mt. 14: 13-21
By Bro. Peter Pocbit et al
God’s plan is greater than our understanding. Jesus in the gospel was himself a witness of the greatness of God’s plan for him and the whole world.
At the start of the reading, Jesus learned about the death of his cousin John. We do not know what Jesus thought and felt when he heard the news. We only know that he retreated to a deserted place, to a wilderness. Based on human nature, Jesus could have been shaken because of the loss of a beloved relative. But also, he could have felt fear. God sent him to his public ministry like John to proclaim the truth, and at that time, he could have suddenly realized the deadly consequences of such a public ministry. So, Jesus felt the need to be alone with his disciples and go up to a secluded place to rest, for their safety, and for mourning.
It was just practical that Jesus and his disciples took themselves away from the towns and from the noise. Rest was what they really and badly needed. They went to the wilderness of peace and of safety.
But God has other plans. Though the death of John the Baptist brought fear and anxiety to the heart of Jesus, God worked a great miracle, a great sign to the Jews to show that Jesus indeed is the much awaited messiah. Jesus’ plan to rest and pray, was overcome by the plan of Father to show His glory.
Scholars commenting on the gospel consider this pericope an important event in the life of the Messiah. For them, it is a perfect time to reveal the glory of God. God is about to make a miracle of bread and wine. It is “the miraculous feeding” of five thousand. Imagine the great number of people who followed Jesus and his disciples to the supposedly deserted place.
But there is no way that Jesus knew of the Father’s plan. Gathering cues from the story, it seems like Jesus only followed his heart the entire time. We see in the gospel that he felt pity for the crowd who followed him to the wilderness. Because of this, he set aside his personal need to rest, then faced the crowd and served them wholeheartedly, even curing the sick.
The great miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish took place because of the immediate need of the crowd. Many traveled far and it could have been difficult and late for them to go home and prepare a meal for themselves. So Jesus told his disciples to let them stay.
When the master asked for the food available among them, his disciples said they only gathered five loaves and two fish. But five loaves and two fish are enough to launch the miracle of the feeding of the multitude. And so Jesus broke the loaves and asked the disciples to share them to the people. The sharing of the loaves fed the multitude of people until they were satisfied. After the meal, the disciples even gathered twelve wicker baskets of left overs.
Note that this is a great miracle is chronicled by all the four gospels. Many scholars even acknowledge that this event echoes the event when God brought manna to feed Moses and the descendants of Jacob in the desert when they fled from slavery in Egypt. Further establishing the typology that Jesus is the Messiah, the awaited new Moses who will bring manna from heaven.
Going back to Jesus, God showed one of the greatest miracles of Jesus’ public ministry during the time when the Lord was sad, tired and probably anxious. But Jesus set aside his personal needs because of his pity and compassion to the people seeking his healing. Come to think of it, if Jesus did not follow his selfless heart, if he submitted to his tiredness, if he avoided the crowd, he could have missed the opportunity to manifest the greatness of God, and fail to establish his claim as the new Moses.
For me, there is something greater than the miracle of the loaves and fish. I am more amazed by the selfless mercy and compassion in the heart of our Lord. How many of us can set aside our personal needs to respond the need of others? How many of us can forgo rest and personal healing to heal the ailment of others who are in greater need?
Only someone with a heart beating with the heart of the Father in heaven can love and serve with such selfless compassion.
In our life, have we missed opportunities when God could have done a great miracle in us? Could we have chosen poorly and selfishly at times to prevent God’s hand to work in us and for us?
I would like to leave these questions for you to reflect on. Moreover, I would like to ask you to pray for all the doctors and other frontliners in this pandemic who are selflessly working with love and compassion to serve those who are sick even at the risk of getting the deadly virus themselves. Let us be one with them in their continuing work. Who knows? This could be part of God’s great miracle of mercy and compassion amid the pandemic.
We have to remember that God’s plan is beyond our understanding. Since our eyes our limited and could not see beyond what is bound by time and space, and our own limited rationality, we need to follow the guidance of our heart, like Jesus who followed his selfless and compassionate heart, we could also witness in our very lives God’s great miracle, in which we could be His instrument.