The Lord’s Gospel for today presents a startling and strange revelation, indeed a miracle.
This revelation, this miracle, is meant to demonstrate the astounding truth regarding the identity of the Lord Jesus- that he speaks and acts in the very person of God, indeed, that he is, as the faith of the apostles testify: the one true God, who has accepted for himself a human nature and lived a real human life.
Thus, we have a revelation that is leading us to an even greater revelation.
What Christ accomplishes in multiplying mere fragments of food is foreshadowed in the power demonstrated by the Old Testament prophets, indeed their mighty deeds point towards him.
The lesson? Christ is God. He is not, as some claim, merely a prophet, an ethicist, a philosopher or social activist. None of these things can adequately give us an account of Christ’s identity. Christ is the one, whom the Gospels testify “that the winds and seas obey”. He is the one who can forgive sins. He is the one who can bring life out of death. He is the one who fulfills the Law and the Prophets. He is the Lord of Sabbath. And he is the one whose mighty deeds include feeding a multitude with only a few scraps of food at his disposal.
He is God and in the brilliant light of this revelation, we are compelled to a decision. Will Christ be the God that we worship or will we follow some other god? The other god need not be the mythological beings of pagan religion. The other god can be anything that we raise to ultimate concern in our lives- it could be wealth, or power, or honors, or pleasure. It can be any of the strivings of our egoism. It can be our politics or our culture. It can be the pretenses of our opinions or our ideologies. False gods are as ubiquitous and plentiful as human desires and Christ is contrary to all of them.
Will it be Christ or will it be someone or something else that we will worship?
Those who decide for Christ set themselves on the path towards becoming his disciples.
Disciples receive from Christ the privilege of knowing Christ in such a way that they can become like him, and this is the other revelation that today’s Gospel invites us to see and understand.
We become like Christ, not just as a result of knowing certain facts or even doctrines about him, or even from doing good deeds, but of partaking of his divine life.
Partaking of Christ’s divine life means that he offers his life to us in response to our offering our own lives to him. This exchange happens for us, to us, in a mysterious revelation we Christians call the Eucharist or Holy Communion.
The Eucharist or Holy Communion is our reception Christ’s divine life as food and drink.
Thus, the revelation of the multiplied loaves and fishes, presented to us today in the Lord’s Gospel, foreshadows a an even greater revelation- God will give to us not just food and drink, but his divine life as our food and drink, and partaking of this we can become like him- for it is his life that we will consume, it is his life that we will eat and drink. It is his life that we hope to become for our own sakes and for the sake of the world.
This all is, of course, the great mystery and meaning of not only the Lord’s Gospel for today, but of the Eucharist, the Holy Communion which we will be invited to receive. We decide. We decide to give our lives to Christ and he gives his divine life to us.
I know that for many, Christ exists in their lives as but one God among many gods and that for many, the Eucharist is no longer Holy Communion, but merely a symbol of community and culture, but here today, you have before yourself the opportunity to finally decide for Christ, to abandon the false gods and to receive from Christ, not just a symbol, but the gift of his real presence, the gift of his divine life.
But know that if you do, your life must and will change.
You will not find here at this altar the mere earthly food, but the transformation of earthly food into Christ’s divine life. The multiplication that God in Christ effects here is not merely loaves and fish but his divine life in and for you.
God in Christ does not want you merely to glory in his power, to accept his sacraments as mere spectacles, to revere his wonders with the same reverence you give to a symphony or a beautiful vista. God in Christ wants you to share in his life. That’s what the Eucharist is. That’s what Holy Communion is. For those who are content with mere symbols, ask yourself why you would settle for less than what God in Christ desires to give to you. And so, if you expect anything less than Christ’s divine life, you are in the wrong place and you are seeking a god that is not here.