8th Sunday after Pentecost: Feeding of the 5000

Today’s Gospel from Matthew 14 tells us about Christ feeding the multitudes – 5000 men plus the women and children, – and we know that there must have been more women than men cause they catch on quicker after all. In the next chapter, chapter 15, St. Mathew tells us Christ is again feeding the multitudes – this time 4000 men plus women and children. The Fathers teach that the formula is always the same, Christ gives thanks to His Father – representing the Anaphora prayers; breaks the bread – representing His body, the Eucharist; gives it to His disciples to distribute – representing the Priests distributing communion at the Chalice at each Liturgy – and the people are filled – unto eternal life! You don’t generally hear the prayer that the Priest says at the Altar as he breaks the lamb up into the 4 main pieces for communion, as the communion hymns are already underway, but it is:

“Divided and distributed is the Lamb of God: Who is divided, yet not disunited; Who is ever eaten, yet never consumed; but sanctifying those who partake thereof.” Today’s Gospel reading demonstrates for us this reality which is eternally present.

This miracle of the feeding of thousands with the bread from Christ is told by all 4 of the Gospel writers and in John chapter 6 Christ explains the true significance. Yes, this was one of the signs of the Messiah, but more than that, Christ explains the Eucharist in very clear and unambiguous terms. John Chapter 6 starts with the feeding of the 5000 but ends with Christ scandalizing the Jews by saying “I am the bread of life…I am the living bread which comes down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, which I give for the life of the world.” The Jews are in shock and say “How can this be?” Christ replies “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in You. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks my blood abides in Me and I in him.” Is that clear enough for you? I don’t find a lot of wiggle room in this passage, although there are certain branches of the “bible believing” evangelical non-sacramental world that seem to have this passage written in invisible ink in their versions. Just to be completely clear Christ then finishes with “As the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven – not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever,” We need to be coming to the cup at every opportunity, this is life! If there is really something standing between us going to receive communion, we should waste no time in coming for confession and receiving forgiveness. Never let yourself stay away from the chalice for twice in a row unless specifically instructed to do so by your Priest.

I would like to talk a little about the great feast of Transfiguration coming up this Wednesday. I am very excited to be able to go down to Holy Myrrhbearers and celebrate with Fr. Gregory, as this is one of the great feasts of the Church! In the Transfiguration passage we see Peter, always one to be a little impulsive and look for action – remember he was the one who cut off the guard’s ear when they came to arrest his Lord. Peter says; “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish let us make here 3 tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

We get a glimpse of the Glory of God, and we get frantic. We need to do something, build a Church, preach to the poor in spirit, start a mission, do something! But remember, He is everywhere present and fills all things, so the light of Christ is always here, but sometimes our eyes are opened to this ever-present reality and we see reality a little more clearly. What does God say to Peter’s suggestion? “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased HEAR HIM” A divine command to shut up and listen! That’s what God wants us to do. Don’t run off and try to accomplish a bunch of kingdom building activities – unless we have first stopped to listen, to hear Him. Just to soak in some of the awe and glory He is allowing us to receive, to feel, to see and experience. We need to stop long enough to really hear Him. We may be building wonderful commendable things for our kingdom, not so much for His.

I read a wonderful story in the book “Everyday Saints” It is on my highly recommended reading list, full of fascinating stories that occurred at Pskov caves Monastery in Russia, the only monastery that managed to stay open all during the communist era because of some very gifted elders and Abbots. One of the stories is about a very hard working and gifted Monk called Melchisadek… tell story.

God really doesn’t need us to accomplish His purposes. If we aren’t available or willing, or just not listening, He can use a talking Ass if necessary. I’m referring to Balaam’s donkey of course, but God could use anyone for His purposes. The donkey saved Balaam from the destroying angel in his path and when Balaam beat him the donkey said (I love the King James Version for this verse) “And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay.”

Why am I telling you about the talking donkey? Not just to show you that donkey talking in Shrek is really not such a novel thing, but to tell you that we really aren’t doing God some great and cosmic favour when we choose to do the only sensible thing, and cooperate with Him in seeking to bring His kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven” When we put our efforts into really working for the Church. He is blessing us and granting us life and He is the one doing us a huge favour, covering us with His love, and allowing us to participate with Him in His true and lasting eternal work. It’s important that we keep that straight, that we don’t slip into some warped kind of “Look at all I’ve done for You, don’t I at least deserve…” type of thinking. It is He who is doing us a huge favour by granting us the incomprehensible privilege of cooperating in His work. We are never doing God any favours. We have only that which He has given us to bring to Him. If we don’t choose to connect this divine spark – the divine gift within each one of us to the source of this life, to Christ and the uncreated and ever-present light, to that transfiguring light revealed to Peter, James and John at Mount Tabor, revealed to Moses at the burning bush, revealed to Motovilov through St. Seraphim, and revealed to so many of the saints throughout all the ages, our spark of divinity stays struggling and lonely, barely staying lit.  As we unite this spark of divinity which is within each one of us, with the source of this divinity, with Christ Himself, the light grows and glows and melts our stony hearts and slowly turns us into true flesh and blood humans, Sons and daughters of God. Glory to Jesus Christ!