Today is the 4th Sunday of Lent, also called Laetare Sunday. The name comes from the first words of the Introit for the Mass, “Laetare, Jerusalem”, which translates to “Rejoice, O Jerusalem”.
Today’s Gospel reading is the well-known story of the miracle of loaves and fishes. Being raised Catholic, I’ve heard this story many many times. However, only recently since I’ve found my way back to the Church have I really started listening and thinking about what the Gospels have to tell us. Luckily at our Church we have well-learned priests to explain the symbolism and meaning, so I’m pulling from their knowledge (see our Bulletin for April 3 for guidance from our Priest) as well as that found at sites like Fish Eaters.
The miracle of loaves and fishes is many things, the first being the symbolism of the Eucharist to come (The Last Supper). Jesus “feeds” the physical hunger of the multitude with bread, symbolizing the sacrifice to come and how He will feed the spiritual hunger of the faithful. When all are full, the fragments are gathered to fill twelve baskets, representing the twelve Apostles and their mission to go forth and feed His people.
In our homily today, we learned that another facet of this Gospel is the interaction with Philip and Andrew. We see that Jesus tested Philip’s faith:
When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?
And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.
Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.
Philip’s faith was weak, and he did not trust in the Lord to provide. Jesus next tested Andrew, whose faith was stronger than Philip’s. Andrew knew that Elisha fed 100 men with 20 loaves in 2 Kings 4:42-44, but to feed 5000 with 5 loaves made him doubt as well.
One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him,
There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?
Lastly, the Gospel concludes with Jesus feeling into the mountains to be alone. He knew that the people wanted to make him their king, not in a spiritual sense, but the political leader of their country. Their enthusiasm wasn’t the true faith, and Jesus knew that they weren’t ready. Jesus knew that He needed to die on the cross in order to save us, and to be made king of Israel would have interfered with His plan.
Is your faith as strong as it could be, or is yours the faith of Philip and Andrew?