‘Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat”’ (Mt 14:16)
The multiplication of loaves (Gospel) is, at its core, a story of divine compassion. Even while seeking a place apart to grieve over the loss of John the Baptist, Jesus was pursued by the crowds. Did he dismiss them? No, not Jesus. St Matthew tells us he had ‘compassion’ on them, and even cured their sick. Now he sought to have them fed as well. His disciples would have the crowd fend for themselves. They ought to have known better! Jesus first tests them (Focus); then sensing their predicament, has compassion on his hapless disciples themselves, and calls upon his Father to intervene (Mt 14:19).
Like any miracle, this one can be reasoned only up to a point; beyond that it needs to be accepted on faith. We can assume the disciples did just that. They began to make sense of the multiplication perhaps only at the Last Supper when Jesus enacted the ultimate act of compassion, offering up his very self as a living sacrifice in the Holy Eucharist. Their understanding was brought to completion, however, only after the Resurrection.
We Christians have a standing invitation to Jesus’ Eucharistic table. Wisdom suggests that we nurture the faith to go fervently towards that table and not shy away from it.