Matthew and Luke have two different feeding accounts. Luke and John each have only one feeding account. But the accounts of the feeding of the five thousand is one of the few stories that appear in all four Gospels.
In this account of the feeding of the five thousand the first hearers of the Gospel familiar with the Old Testament, would have heard echoes of other parts of their tradition: 1) the feeding of the Israelites in the desert; 2) Elisha’s feeding of a hundred men with twenty loaves; and 3) the language of the eucharist.
Jesus did the following: “Then taking the five loaves and two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.” Looking up to heaven was a common posture for prayer. But the other actions are practically the same as the early Church’s Eucharistic formulas.
After his death, Jesus walk walking with the Disciples toward Emmaus, was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread. Luke clearly ties together the Last Supper account of the institution of the Eucharist with the meals that Jesus celebrated with outcasts and hungry multitudes. At the end of his Gospel Luke has a series of Post-Resurrection meals when Jesus makes himself known.
Luke tells us: “They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.” Earlier Jesus had given the beatitude” Blessed are you who are hungry now,/ for you will be filled.” In the abundance of food in the number who were fed and the abundance of twelve baskets leftover people should have seen a fulfillment of the presence of the Kingdom of God. Jesus said he had come to bring good news to the poor. The predominant group in those who were fed would have been the poor. Jesus also was fulfilling the vision of Isaiah.
It would almost seem that the Catholic Church wishes to elevate our sense of the Eucharist by establishing this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. During Holy Week, Holy Thursday clearly celebrates Jesus giving us the Eucharist and the importance of a priesthood of service. But this feast gives us another occasion to reflect on what the Eucharist means for me in my life.
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