Homily On the 8th Sunday After Pentecost
Today's Gospel from St Matthew relates to us the feeding of the five thousand and the miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes. The account of this event is to be found in all Four Gospels. From the details that are added in the other Gospels we know that this event took place in the third year of the Saviour's public preaching, after the beheading of St John the Baptist. From it we can learn several things.
First of all, we should note that this was an enormous crowd, almost unimaginable in size, of five thousand men plus women and children. We notice how they followed Christ on foot in the heat of the day into the wilderness and without food. What faith and devotion we see here, when there are Orthodox who claim to be unable to come to church on Sundays in their cars, because the church is too far from their beds!
Secondly, we can see that this miracle took place not for the personal vanity or glory of the Saviour, but out of compassion for the people. We can see this in many miracles of Christ and it is mentioned again in today's Gospel how the Lord healed because He 'took pity' on the sick. Each miracle of Christ is an act of love performed out of compassion.
Thirdly, we see also how before He performed the miracle, Our Lord took up the five loaves and fishes, and then looked up to Heaven and thanked the Father and blessed the food. Here He sets us Orthodox the example of praying before eating. How many Orthodox often forget even to make the sign of the cross before eating! And yet the Saviour Himself, 'by Whom all things were made', asks for the blessing of the Father before eating.
Fourthly, we can compare the humble conditions in which this miracle happened, in the wilderness, sitting on the grass, with the conditions in which just previously St John the Baptist's death had been ordered, at Herod's luxurious birthday banquet.
Fifthly, we can see how this miracle is also a revelation of the Saviour's divinity, of the power of Christ.
The miracle takes place when the day is already far spent, but Christ is not limited by time; He is the Lord of Time.
The miracle takes place in a desert place, in the wilderness; Christ is also the Lord of Space.
He blesses and multiplies bread and fish; He is also the Lord of Land and Sea.
Finally, in this miracle we see how Christ not only feeds us with material food, but also with spiritual food, for, as it is written in the Holy Scriptures, man shall not live by bread alone. We see this in the numbers mentioned in this Gospel.
Why five loaves? The number five, as we read in the Psalms and in the prayers of thanksgiving after communion, represent our five senses, being, which is fed by Christ, the Bread of Life.