One of the great libels thrown at Marie Antoinette, the ill-fated Queen of France was her indifference to the poor and hungry. It was summed up in a quote she was supposed to have made when told the poor had no bread she is alleged to have said “Then let them eat cake.” Historians say she is innocent of the remark, but it does sums up the court at Versailles on the eve of the French Revolution. Confronted by hungry mouths they were too removed and indifferent from the plight of the poor.
Jesus too is confronted by more mouths than there is bread to eat in the Gospel today when he meets the Five Thousand. The disciples are practical men and sensible they realise the impossibility of the task and the expense. Perhaps better to send the crowds away.
But Jesus doesn’t send them away; instead he feeds them from the magre meal of five barley loaves and two fish.
In this miracle Jesus tells us something important about the nature of God and that is his lavish impractical generosity…for God gives a full measure overflowing and brimming over. Perhaps that is why the feeding of the five thousand has always been associated with the Eucharistic because it points to the rich treasure and abundance we have in the Eucharist.
In the mystery of the mass we find the unstinting generosity of God; for in this miraculous sacrament Christ gives us himself: the fullness of his divinity, the completeness of humanity, his body, his soul…his all.
In the Eucharist the infinite richness of Christ is expressed in the complete poverty and humility of bread. And in it we find the inexhaustible generosity of God, our greatest treasure and most wonderful possession.
And yet there is another parable expressed in the great mystery of the mass. For if Christ comes to us in the poverty and humility of a tiny piece of bread. Is not God also every bit as truly and really present in our brothers and sisters throughout the world who are both spiritually and materially poor.
As Catholics we rightly show our reverence and love for the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. But we are also called to recognise the presence of Christ in the poor and impoverished. For they too contain the image of God and to neglect them is to neglect Christ. If Christ breaks the bread of life with us must we not also break the bread of our lives and share it with those who have none?