This Sunday’s gospel account of the loaves and fishes miracle (Jn 6:1-15) is familiar to many of us, so it offers a good opportunity to take a fresh perspective. When you read it at mass, pretend you’re walking into the middle of a big first communion party. In a way, that’s what it is. A big crowd of people liked what they were hearing about this Jesus, so they wanted to hear him for themselves. The people came together in communion. The result of what they heard and saw is that their souls came together in communion.
Although this account is more about what Jesus did than what he said, whatever he said must have been life-changing. The Holy Spirit galvanized this crowd, and they were clearly moved by his message. Christ’s multiplying of those few loaves and fishes to feed everyone sealed the deal, and he knew this miracle would cause that communion of souls to take action.
“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.”
These people seemed to commit themselves in communion to God after this holy experience. They were dedicating themselves to God as part of the same harvest that went into the holy bread they had just consumed. They were among the firstfruits of Jesus’ mission on earth—living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, ready to be harvested.
This great event was foreshadowed in our Old Testament reading from the Book of Kings (2 Kgs 4:42-44):
“A man came from Baal-shalishah bringing to Elisha, the man of God, twenty barley loaves made from the firstfruits, and fresh grain in the ear. Elisha said, “Give it to the people to eat.”
Of course the man protested that it would be impossible to feed so many with so little, but this communion of firstfruits was just as bountiful.
In our second reading (Eph 4:1-6) Paul advises the Ephesians to exhibit a similar unity of spirit as they present themselves to God–
–“bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
I’ve ignored the fish in all this, haven’t I? For the purposes of this blog, let’s think of that word as a verb instead of a noun. As firstfruits, we are called to be fishers of men and women—bringing them to the same communion party we crashed in our gospel reading. Let’s make sure our actions are good bait.