17th Sunday in Ordinary time

Today’s story from the gospel must have been very moving for the people, who heard it from the Apostles. These people struggled every day to live; they were familiar with hunger. This miracle would have impressed them greatly. And anyone who could perform such a miracle would have seemed utterly supernatural. In the history of the world we find many people who built their popularity by giving away bread for nothing. In ancient Rome an Emperor could guarantee his popularity by giving people what they wanted – and all they wanted was bread and games. I’m afraid that politicians today often do exactly the same when they give their promises.

In the Bible bread is a symbol of a basic human need. In the Lord’s Prayer we find this phrase: “give us this day our daily bread” – these words symbolize our anxiety about everyday needs. Jesus on the other hand directs us to a higher, spiritual meaning of human life: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”. So satisfying basic human needs is very important, but it is not enough. If a person lives only on the most basic level he is nothing more than an animal.

Today’s gospel is the beginning of a long story; we will listen to it for the next four Sundays. People in today’s gospel follow Christ because they have seen him cure sick people. Now they experience another miracle – the multiplication of loaves. They are so impressed that they want to proclaim Jesus as king. I ask you: In our world what self-respecting politician would miss such a chance? But Jesus is different; he escapes to the hills, hiding from the crowd. Next day he will go by boat to Capernaum. The people will find him there and they will listen to his teaching. But at the end most of them leave Jesus – just the day after they wanted to make him a king.

First of all today’s gospel should make us grateful that we live in a relatively good economic situation and even if sometimes it’s a struggle, most of our basic needs are satisfied. But there is more. The gospel is also a warning that satisfying the basic needs is not enough. We need to look beyond them, towards greater values.