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Have the People Recline
Friday of the Second Week of Easter
After this, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee [of Tiberias]. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little [bit].” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.
Opening Prayer: Lord God, though my needs are many, you care for them all. Though I am but one in a crowd, you treat me as your only son/daughter. I know this miracle prepares your disciples for the gift of the Eucharist; help me to reverence the Blessed Sacrament for the miraculous gift it is!
- A Large Hungry Crowd: When our worries crowd in on us, we often feel alone. They are our worries, and no one else is going to worry about them if we don’t. But the Lord will. He was the first one to see the large crowd and ask, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He has the heart of a good shepherd, always thinking of his sheep and what they need. He wants his sheep to confide in him, to make known their worries. When we act alone, we realize our resources are so small. Our bodies get tired, our heads fail to understand, and our glance does not perceive. Our hearts do not feel as they should, and our mouths spout what we do not want to say! What good are these weak instruments for so many needs?
- “Have the People Recline”: Jesus’s response to the problem is counterintuitive: slow down, contemplate, and rest. “Have the people recline,” he said. Stop trying to fix the problem alone, and turn your eyes toward Jesus. Look about you, see the deep blue lake and the verdant hillside where Jesus sits, in command. The evangelist bothered to tell us, “Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.” Is this detail essential? No, but it is part of the harvest we reap when we bring our hunger to Jesus. We can ask question after question. Why does Jesus put Philip to the test? Why does he put us to the test? Christ simply wants us to recline along with five thousand others who also need him. We are each just one sheep in a flock. We cannot buy enough food for ourselves to eat, not without Jesus.
- Jesus Gives Thanks: When Jesus gives thanks, we are fed. This is the logic of the sacrifice of the Mass. “Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted.” Before ten thousand eyes deep-set in five thousand hungry faces, Jesus gave thanks to his Father in heaven. We also come to him in the Mass seeking Eucharistic food, and he distributes it to all those who are reclining–all those who heed the shepherd’s voice. “Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty; though you have no money, come! Buy and eat…Why spend money on what cannot nourish and your wages on what fails to satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:1-2).
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, I follow you over the sea and up the hills because I know you are the living bread. I come empty-handed, ready to buy at no price the priceless Bread of Angels. I beg you to give me my fill.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace, I will make a visit to the tabernacle, if possible. If this is not feasible, I will make a spiritual communion in the Eucharist.
For Further Reflection: Try reading Book II of Thomas a Kempis’s Imitation of Christ. Book II is an invitation to a radical living of the interior life, which advocates prayer and reflection as the wellspring of holiness in action.
Written by Br. Erik Burckel, LC