Today’s gospel is a metaphorical teaching about following God. All of the readings of today give us the understood beginning of Israel as a community committed to following God. This general theme continues through Jesus’ teaching in a parable about the feeding of the 5000. We often spend our time wondering about how Jesus fed 5000 men plus their families and have food left over with two fish and five loaves of bread! If we fail to see the metaphor in this reading, then we miss the point of the teaching.
The Gospel of Matthew was written down approximately 50 years after the time of Jesus. In that time many things happened. “The Way” as the early church was known was conceived by the Jewish community as well as the Romans as a cult within Judaism. After the fall of the temple in 70 A.D., members of “the Way” were seen as a cause for God’s displeasure that caused the destruction of the temple. To be a follower of Jesus after the fall of the temple was unsafe! Christians meeting each other would make the sign of the fish in the dirt with their toe. This indicated they were a follower of “the Way”. If the other understood the secret sign, they could talk openly about their faith. The secret word signified by the image of the fish was “Ichthus” the Greek word for” fish” which was an anagram meaning” Jesus Christ Lord and Savior’! The two fish symbolized in the Gospel teaching of the 5000 is that we will be fed endlessly and fully if we recognize Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. There is no need to look for a literal way in which Jesus fed the 5000. The metaphor was never intended to be taken in a literal way. In the year 80 AD, people understood this meaning and so can we.
For those of us living today we often seek salvation in other things rather than in following the teachings of Jesus. In this time of the pandemic lockdown many people have turned to other things for their salvation. Our true salvation comes from building up a progressive inclusive community based in love and caring for each other, the environment, and the universe. May God keep us safe as we journey with a restorative Journey in this life. In this way will never hunger nor have to be afraid.