Summary: As Jesus fed the five thousand, so we are challenged to give authentic teaching to the millions of our brothers and sisters who are uncatechized.
January 6, 2009
The Feeding of the Multitude
Love doesn’t begin with us. Love begins with God, because God is Love. “God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” Matthew and Mark say it a little differently: when Jesus looked on the crowds, he saw that they were “like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” The reference here is to chapter 34 of Ezekiel, in which the prophet heard God complaining about the leadership of the priests and politicians of his day, who were just intent on going along to get along, and enriching themselves at the expense of the people.
The Messiah, then, Jesus, identified Himself as the one who would make real the promise of the Lord to shepherd His people. Mark is clever in the way he brings pastoral images into the story: he organizes them into little flocks of fifty and a hundred. They sit down on green grass–which reminds us of Psalm 23. And, of course, the prayer to the Father, the breaking and giving of the loaves, reminds us of the Eucharistic sacrifice we share each day.
But understand that the compassion of Jesus was first shown by His teaching many things. (Didaskein) There’s a message here for all of us at this school. I’ve learned over the past couple of weeks that there is a steep price to pay for not teaching the whole truth of the Catholic faith in our religion classes. Catholic schools in the seventies and eighties, even more recently, have substituted psychology for religious truth, and spent more time teaching the stages of grief and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs than the moral, sacramental and Scriptural truths of our faith. The result is two generations of Catholics who think you can pick and choose the things you believe, and still remain faithful to Christ and the Church. So we have a situation in which 10% of Americans are ex-Catholics, and of those who still profess Catholicism, 50% get divorced and 90% practice contraception. There’s a lot of work to do over the next generation. We’ve made a beginning here in the past nine years, but we need more full-time workers in this field, for there are still many sheep without shepherds.