Sunday's first and second readings give us a unique picture of God's care. No person of faith can hear them without thanking God for the confidence and security they instill.

More than 500 years before Jesus' birth, Isaiah delivers one of Yahweh's most forceful and consoling proclamations (Is 55: 1-3): "All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk! Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy?"

It's clear that the prophet is talking about more than physical food and drink. He's telling his community in exile that the only thing that can completely satisfy them is a good relationship with Yahweh. "Come to me heedfully," God commands; "listen that you may have life." No matter what we eat or drink, true life happens only when we learn to relate to God's working in our lives.

United with God

Paul agrees, but he differs in the way he conceives of this relationship (Rom 8: 35, 37-39). "I am certain," he assures the Church at Rome, "that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor powers, neither height nor depth nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus, our Lord."

The Apostle builds his relationship with God by imitating the way Jesus relates with God. Paul believes that only by going through the daily deaths that love demands do we achieve the life from God that the risen Jesus shares with God. How can anyone be closer to God?

The Gospel (Mt 14: 13-21) perfectly meshes with Isaiah's and Paul's insights, but Matthew approaches the belief in God-given bread and sharing Jesus' death and life from a significantly different direction.

Though the story of the miraculous feeding is the only miracle narrated in all four Gospels, there's a huge difference be-tween John's description of the event and that of the others. Unlike John, Matthew (along with Mark and Luke) stresses Jesus' command to His disciples, "Give them some food yourselves!" Whey they respond, "Five loaves and two fish are all we have here," Jesus still insists, "Bring them here to me."

Bread for all

Matthew's Jesus doesn't directly "multiply" the bread and fish. He simply takes the five loaves and the two fish, looks up to heaven, says a blessing, breaks the loaves, and gives them back to His disciples to distribute to the crowds. The evangelist then mentions, "They all ate and were satisfied."

Scripture scholars agree that just as Isaiah wasn't always talking about regular bread in chapter 55, neither is Matthew talking about regular bread in chapter 14. Like his three evangelistic cohorts, Matthew wants this bread miracle to be a reflection on what happens in the community's celebration of the Eucharist.

Only when each person generously shares with others what he or she has brought to the Lord's Supper will the whole community leave the celebration satisfied.

Accustomed to the limited Eucharistic participation we often experience, it's difficult to imagine the first-century communities' "wide-open" celebrations.

Remember what Paul tells his readers in I Corinthians 14:26? "When you assemble, one has a psalm, another an instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Everything should be done for building up."

I frequently remind my parishioners that if someone leaves our Eucharistic celebrations hungry, it can only be because one or all of us haven't sufficiently shared the life that the risen Jesus has instilled in our hearts.

No matter how little we think we have, once blessed by Jesus, it becomes more than enough to meet the needs of the whole community.

(7/28/05)