Skip to main content

Understanding the Incident of the Loaves


The Bread that we need each day to grow in eternal life makes of our will a docile instrument of the Divine Will; sets the Kingdom of God within us; gives us pure lips, and a pure heart with which to glorify his holy name.” ~ Edith Stein

In today’s Gospel (Mark 6:45-52), we look in on Jesus in the immediate aftermath of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, wherein he instructs his disciples to board a boat and chart a course for Bethsaida where he would meet them. Jesus then went off to the mountain to pray, but upon glancing out at the sea sometime later he had noticed that the boat had drifted far out into the waters where it was being tossed about violently by the waves. It was at this point that He walked towards them, upon the water no less, in order to alleviate their fears. The Apostles were understandably astounded at this sight, drawing the conclusion that it was a ghost and not their friend.

As amazing and miraculous as this story is, it was the closing words of today’s passage that grabbed my attention on this Christmas Weekday Celebration and Memorial of Saint Andre Bessette. The passage concludes with the following words:

“They had not understood the incident of the loaves. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.” (6:52).

This incident of the loaves, wherein the 5,000 were fed, is of course Jesus’ foreshadowing of the Holy Eucharist, this most sacred of Catholic Sacraments of which Saint John Vianney said “There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us.” We know that God had nothing more precious than His very own begotten Son.

We too however as the Mystical Body of Christ in the year 2021 have yet to fully understand the incident of the loaves. A recent survey revealed that a paltry 33% of Catholics believe in transubstantiation, the idea that during Mass, the bread and wine used for Holy Communion becomes the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ by virtue of the power of the Holy Spirit. Others receive it unworthily or flippantly. Still others have decided that they no longer need to attend Mass, opting instead to watch it on YouTube, the equivalent of being hungry and turning on the television to watch a McDonalds Commercial.

Yes, two out of every three Catholics’ hearts have been hardened to this miracle. Percentage wise, that would be 66.6%. The three sixes in this case is hardly a coincidence; the Prince of Lies has once again done what he does best..”It’s merely an ancient and silly symbolic ritual,” he tells those in our midst who have but a moderate or lukewarm interest in the truth. “Nothing to see here; go back to your Netflix, your video games, and your profanity-laced political arguments with strangers on Facebook.”

Scroll to Continue

“Do you realize,” Saint Therese of Lisieux once asked, “that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart... don't listen to the demon, laugh at him and go without fear to receive the Jesus of peace and love.” Frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist and intercessory prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel causes the devil to scurry back to the vile depths of hell, precisely where he belongs.

In the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, we are told that the 5,000 who were on hand all ate and were satisfied, a satisfaction and peace of mind, body, and soul that is available to all who partake of this Sacrament. We also know that there were leftovers, reminding us that in the Eucharist we receive more than enough divine grace to complete our journey home to the Father’s Heavenly Kingdom. In fact there were exactly 12 baskets left over, perhaps symbolic of the 12 Tribes of Israel. This is the Lord reminding us that all are invited to the Eucharistic Banquet. All are invited to pursue the salvific and sacramental life, those who have been born and raised in the faith traditions, those who have abandoned them who Jesus waits for like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, and those whom we are called to evangelize and subsequently bring to the miracle that is the Eucharistic Table. For as was Jesus’ plea to His Father “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” (John 17:21).

In the Eucharist we see God’s unending generosity, wherein we bring to Him the simple gifts of bread and wine ~ gifts we can offer only because He first gave them to us as a gift, this “fruit of the vine, and work of human hands.” Through the power of the Holy Spirit they become the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. So it goes for the children of the Light; you cannot out-give God. The Holy Spirit, this constant love between God the Father and Jesus His Son, the same Spirit that is lavishly poured out over the faithful by way of the Gifts of the Spirit (wisdom, understanding, fortitude, etc) is offered to us in the disguise of bread and wine. Those who seek them out and accept them, those who run to them, change the world. For as Saint John Bosco was fond of saying, “We don‘t go to Holy Communion because we are good. we go instead to become good.”

These gifts and graces allow us to live up to the otherwise impossible standard that Jesus demands of us with regard to the treatment of our neighbor. Without the gifts of the Spirit and the sanctifying grace offered to us by way of the Eucharist, it is simply impossible in our broken and sinful state to love our neighbor as ourselves. And without the Eucharist we will never grow to fully love the Lord with all our heart, mind, and soul because without the Eucharist, we will never fully grasp the magnitude of God’s love for us. For it is in this Sacrament that both God and Jesus’ love for us is displayed in its most dynamic and dramatic form (John 3:16).

The New Year will undoubtedly bring with it a slew of resolutions; it always does. Let us all resolve to love the gift of the Eucharist with a renewed sense of ardor and fervor. To pursue it in the way they the merchant pursued the pearl of great price in Matthew’s Gospel (13:45). For to quote Mahatma Gandhi, “If I really believed that my Lord and my God were truly present in the tabernacle as you say he is, I would crawl on my hands and knees to Church every day to worship and adore Him.”

......”Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to Heaven.” ~ Saint Pope Pius X

“When you say the Our Father, the Lord’s ear is next to your lips.” ~ Saint Andre Bessette, pray for us.

“When you say the Our Father, the Lord’s ear is next to your lips.” ~ Saint Andre Bessette, pray for us.

Related Articles