Deacon Jim Olson’s Reflection-8-3-20

407 408 8-3-20 18th WOT Mt 24:22-36

Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospel accounts (Luke 9:10-17, Mark 6:34-44, John 6:51-58, Matthew 14:13-21). What is the significance of this miracle? The miraculous feeding of such a great multitude recalled the miraculous provision of manna in the wilderness under Moses’ leadership and intercession for his people (Exodus 16).  The daily provision of food for the people of Israel during their forty years of journeying in the barren wilderness foreshadowed the true heavenly bread which Jesus would pass on to his disciples at his last supper meal on the eve of his sacrifice on the cross.

Jesus makes a claim which only God can make: He is the true bread of heaven that can satisfy the deepest hunger we experience (John 6:32-35). The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, when Jesus said the blessing, broke and distributed the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, is a sign that prefigures the superabundance of the unique bread of the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper which sustains us on our journey to the kingdom of heaven.

The feeding of the five thousand shows the remarkable generosity of God and his great kindness towards us. When God gives, he gives abundantly. He gives more than we need for ourselves that we may have something to share with others, especially those who lack what they need. God takes the little we have and multiplies it for the good of others. Do you trust in God’s provision for you and do you share freely with others, especially those who lack?

Lord Jesus Christ, you satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts and you feed us with the finest of wheat (Psalm 81:16). Fill us with gratitude for your blessings and give us generous hearts that we may freely share with others what you have given us.

Recently I have been reading St Thomas Aquinas and studying his theologies, noting the word, “concupiscence.” St James’ teaching is that the source of temptation is to be found in our own passions. (James 1:14-15) Elsewhere he says that the world (cf. 1:27; 4:4) and the devil (4:7) are causes of temptation; but to actually commit sin, the complicity of one’s own evil inclinations is always necessary. Concupiscence (“desire”), here, as elsewhere in the New Testament (cf., e.g., Rom 1:24; 7:7ff; 1Jn 2:16), means all the disordered passions and appetites which, as a result of original sin, have a place in our hearts. Concupiscence as such is not a sin; but rather, according to the Council of Trent, “since it is left to provide a trail, it has no power to injure those who do not consent and who, by the grace of Jesus Christ, manfully resist;” and if it is sometimes called sin (cf. Rom 6:12ff) of is “only because it is from sin and inclines to sin.”

Using the simile of generation, St James describes the course of sin from the stage of temptation to that of the death of the soul. When one gives in to the seduction of concupiscence, sin is committed; this in turn leads to spiritual death, to the soul’s losing the life of grace. This is the opposite process to the one described earlier (cf. vv. 2-12), which begins with trials and ends up in heaven; whereas in this passage, the process also begins with temptation but because of sin, ends up with the death of the soul. 

St John Paul the great describes the process as follows: “Man also knows, through painful experience, that by a conscious and free act of his will he can change course and go in a direction opposed to God’s will, separating himself from God, rejecting loving communion with him detaching himself from the life- principle which God is, and consequently choosing death.”

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Saint James Catholic Church, Belvidere, IL