It will be remembered that Mark’s version of the Good News is the shortest of the four records. For this reason during the Marcan Year B, the Sunday readings need to be supplemented by Matthew, Luke and John. John will be used from the 17th to the 21st Sunday. On Sunday 22 we will pick up Mark exactly where we left it last week.

In TODAY’S GOSPEL VERSES [6: 1 – 15] there is a subtle but important difference from the same incident as it is recorded by the Synoptic versions {Luke 9: 10 – 17; Mark 6: 30 – 44; Matthew 14: 13 – 21}. This difference has greater clarity in Matthew’s account where it is the disciples themselves who initiate developments. “This is a lonely place, and the day has gone; send the people off …. to buy themselves food.” However, in John’s account it is Jesus’ initiative which starts the ball rolling. He “said to Philip … ‘how are we to buy bread so that these people may eat?’ ”

We need to bear in mind that John’s account of the Last Supper has no reference or mention of the actual institution of the Eucharist. Only the Synoptic do so – and they alone record Jesus taking an active interest in preparations for the paschal meal.
{see Matthew 26: 17 – 19; Mark 14: 12 – 16; Luke 22: 7 – 13} (Mark’s account emphasises that the disciples themselves take the immediate initiative.)
Our Gospel reading tells us that the question asked of Philip by the Lord was a “test” because “he himself knew what he was going to do.” There is no doubt in my mind that John’s presentation makes a clear reference to what the Lord was going to do at the Last Supper. Do not fail to note that today’s Gospel tells us” now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.”

The miracle of the multiplication is “an anticipation of the Eucharist and part of the progressive revelation Jesus was undertaking.” {ADRIEN NOCENT; The Liturgical Year: Vol 3: Page 235} The progressive revelation referred to must always be recognised in the words proclaimed by the Word of God. How many times does the Gospel not record “and Jesus said?” The teaching of Jesus that “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”{Matthew 4:4} must be kept in mind. The teaching of Jesus that comes through in this Sunday’s Gospel verses is clear. He is the source of divine abundance. We must not only hunger for the Bread of Life but also for the Lord’s teaching. He is the Word of God that lives amongst us. {see John 1: 1 & 14} Luke {24: 27, 31, 32} also adds a further point – “then he … explained to them all the passages which referred to himself. … he broke the bread and offered it to them. … Their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. … our hearts were on fire as he explained the scriptures to us.” Jesus’ words to them as he explained the scriptures were an essential forerunner of their recognition of him in the breaking of the bread.

There are three especially interesting points in our Gospel reading. Firstly, note Jesus’ instruction to “gather up the fragments left over so that nothing may be lost.” The word fragments is the same word used by the early Church for the Eucharistic particles. John’s version of the Gospel was the last of the four accounts to appear. The Church in John’s times was celebrating Eucharist. Secondly, The Synoptic accounts of this miracle tell us that Jesus gives the bread he has blessed to the disciples for distribution. John tells us that Jesus distributes – “Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated.” This is what the Synoptics describe as happening at the Last Supper. Finally, we are told that the disciples “filled twelve baskets with fragments … left by those who had eaten.” Mention has been made of the abundance of God – the five thousand who had been present were unable to exhaust this abundance. Neither are we.

We must, however, never forget that it is the words of Jesus, repeated at every Eucharist, which make bread and wine become something else – no words, no Eucharist. Unless we are eager to learn (reverently and fully receptive) from the words of scripture at every Eucharist we must fail to truly recognise him in the breaking of the bread. In addition we limit the abundance of our God. “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” NEITHER CAN WE!

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