2 Kings 4,42-44
Starting this Sunday, the liturgy of the word opens up with an ample parenthesis that will permit us to hear the 6th chapter of the gospel of John, in which the evangelist realizes a stupendous reflection about the mystery of Christ ? Bread of Life, that incarnates himself in history, offering his life for humanity’s salvation and becomes present in the midst of the Christian community in the bread of the Eucharist. In his reflection on the eucharisticmeditation and the Christological reflection, he bases them admirably on the mystery of the Incarnation (the bread of God that comes down from heaven) and the mystery of the redemption (the bread that gives life to the world). The 6th chapter of John’s gospel begins with the account of the multiplication of loaves, that is one of the “signs” that Jesus realizes. The Lord’s action, however, has a symbolic value that invites us to discover something more. In it, is revealed the mystery of Jesus’ glory. Through the exterior action, we are invited to capture a more profound truth. The “sign” becomes announcementand catechesis of the mystery of Christ “bread of life.”
The first reading (2 K 4,42-44) is the account of the multiplication of loaves realized by the prophet Elisha. In the text, the will of God to give something to eat to that group that is with the prophet is underlined, in spite of the little provision of loaves which are counted (v. 42: “twenty barely loaves and fresh grain in the ear”). Elisha is not a magician, he is a “man of God,” that acts always in obedience to the Lord. He is a faithful believer and a prophet. For this reason, before the doubt of his servant (“How can I serve this to a hundred men?”), he insists: “Give it to the people to eat, for the Lord says this, ‘They will eat and have some left over”’ (v. 43). In the context of the second book of Kings, the accounts of Elisha’s miracles are a strong argument against the religious syncretism that Israel lived, that ran to Baal ? Canaanite divinity of fertility ? and not to Yahweh, to obtain bread, water, oil and fruits of the earth. The prophet’s miracle shows forth Yahweh’s power, the only one that makes the earth fertile and gives life to his people. Through faith, the prophet becomes also the power and the fidelity of God in a limited situation, where human means are scarce and men and women’s capacities result as insufficient.
The second reading (Eph 4,1-6) is a call to the edification of the Christian communion as body of Christ, through unity in faith and reciprocal love. For the author of the letter to the Ephesians, to live so is “to lead a life worthy of your vocation” (v. 1). Concrete love one for another, is opposed to the temptation of useless confrontation, of sectarianism, of egoistic indifference and of the divisions on the interior of the Church (v. 2: “Bear with one another charitably, in complete selfishness, gentleness and patience…”). The unity of faith helps to overcome the temptation of the deformation of revealed truth (v. 14: “Then we shall no longer be children, or tossed one way and another, and carried hither and thither by every new gust of teaching…”). At the root of concrete love and of the unity of faith is found the mystery of the Trinity, as source of life, of communion and of truth in the Church (vv. 4-6). The presence and the action of the Spirit, of the Lord Jesus and of the Father,make up the foundation of love and unity in the Church. This unity is not only a pastoral-ethical exigency, but also the reflection of the very unity of God. In ancient Israel, the unity of the people was founded on the unity of Yahweh (Dt 6,4: “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one”); in the Church, the foundation of unity is the Trinitarian mystery: one only is the Spirit that animates the hope of believers; one only is the Lord, in whom one assents in faith and baptism; and one only is the Father of all, “who is Father of all, through all and within all” (v. 6).
(Din 6,1-15) relates the “sign” that Jesus realizes in favor of the hungry
people. There is an important chronological fact: “It was shortly
before the Jewish feast of Passover” (v. 4). It is evident that John
desires to place in a relationship with the Passover, the gesture of Jesus.
Jesus, the same as Moses, has crossed “the sea” (cf. Ex 14,1-31) and was
with the people on “the mountain” (cf. Ex 19,20.24( )v. 3). Everything
makes one think that the action realized by Jesus reveals a mystery of
liberation, in the style of the ancient Hebrew Passover. The break
that he gives to the people evokes a higher and mysterious gift:
the eschatological salvation that God offers, through him, to all men and
women. The symbolism of the mountain can be explored even more. The
mountain is the place in which the Law was given to Israel (Ex 19) and
the sacred space in which God will prepare the messianic banquet for all
peoples (Is 25,6-10). Now it is Jesus, on the mountain, he that prepares
the messianic banquet, presenting himself as the true bread come down from
Jesus upon “seeing” that many people surrounded him, took the initiative to give them something to eat, asking Philip: “Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?” (v. 5). In this way, the absolute gratuity of the gift of the bread is underlined. The account presents above all Jesus as generous giver before the multitude; his gratuitous gesture, depends on the look that he has cast upon them. With the question that Jesus makes to Philip in the 5th verse (“Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat”), he stresses the impossibility of man and woman to obtain for themselves the “true” bread. Jesus waits for Philip’s reaction, which does not capture the metaphorical dimension of Jesus’ question and responds to him taking note that they have very little money to buy food for so many people (v. 7). Behind the dialogue between Jesus and Philip we can glimpse at the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Though you have no money, come! Buy wheat and eat, freely!” (Is 55,1). In this prophetic text, under the image of the food conceded gratuitously, Yahweh invites Israel to look for, that which truly satisfies, his word that brings to life and promises them his eternal covenant. In addition, Jesus wants to offer to the people the bread that satisfies truly and that gives eternal life. The evangelist adds, in effect, that Jesus “knew exactly what he was going to do” (v. 6). A “do” that does not refer only to the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. So that all of them may have life, Jesus will give much more that some loaves that satisfy materially. He will offer them the words that he has heard from the Father, and his very own self through death. The intervention of Andrew, the same as Philip, wants to stress the generosity of the sign and human impotency (v. 8).
Jesus orders that everyone be seated, that is to say, invites them to the table that he himself will serve. The Greek very used indicates that the people “reclined” to eat, as at the great banquets. Jesus does not only give food, but presides at that common meal. The gestures of Jesus evoke the Last Supper: takes the loaves, gives thanks to God and distributes them. He himself shares the bread, he himself gives to the multitude to eat (not the disciples, as in the other gospels). With this fact, John wants to underline the mystery that is enclosed in this sign: that freely distributed bread represents Jesus that gives his life for the salvation of humanity. then Jesus orders that they gather up the pieces so that nothing is lost (v. 12), thus that food means also the incorruptibility of the gift of God and of the life given by Jesus to men and women. At the end, Jesus is acclaimed by the people as prophet that had to come to the world, similar to Moses (v. 14). They want to take him by force to make him king, but Jesus flees alone to the hills. The people have not captured
all of the mystery enclosed in that sign. Jesus, in the end, is alone on high, a space that represents the world of God. Jesus receives glory alone from the Father, not from men and women.
With that sign, Jesus presents himself as the new Passover gift (“It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover”) that, offering himself, gives life to the world. He is the true bread that satisfies the physical and spiritual hunger of man and woman. The Christian community lives this mystery sacramentally each time they celebrate the Eucharist, experience of gratitude, exigency of solidarity.