August 2, 2020
XVIII Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
After the chapter that brings together the parables of the Kingdom, which we heard these last Sundays, the narrative plot of the Evangelist Matthew resumes with the episode of the imprisonment and killing of John the Baptist by Herod (Mt 14:1-12), followed by the account of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes (Mt 12:13-21), which we hear today.
The Evangelist presents the news of the death of the Baptist as the precise motive for Jesus’ choice to withdraw to a deserted place, to have a moment of solitude. Jesus captures in this death a prophetic announcement of what will also be His destiny, and, more overtly, it places before Him the mystery of suffering and death that awaits Him.
His search for a place and a time where He can get away and be alone without the disciples appears to fail. The crowd intuits his thought, they go before him on foot, and so Jesus gets off the boat and finds Himself in front of a large group.
Once He descends, Jesus first sees (Mt 14:1) a needy crowd, which lacks different things. It first requires health; therefore, Jesus takes care of the sick who are present. He dedicates Himself to them. It is a crowd also in need of care, attention, and mercy.
It is a crowd that needs food. It needs to understand where to look for bread, where to find the One who can satisfy; a place where to discover that there is no other place to find food.
The disciples would think it appropriate to dismiss all those people without taking charge of their needs.
That is the great temptation of humans, of each of us, to think that the other’s need does not concern us; it is not our business. That of thinking that there is nothing you can do to feed your brother’s hunger, that you are sure you will not have the possibility.
Instead, Jesus sees. He has seen what is missing, and now He sees what is there, those five loaves and two fish which, if shared, would seem to be not enough for anyone.
Why, instead, not only are they enough to feed the crowd - even, in the plural, the masses (Mt 14:19), but they also have twelve baskets left?
I believe that the secret is precisely the gaze of Jesus.
The Gospel, today, suggests that we put both what is and what is not under the gaze of Jesus. We are to be under His gaze with all that we are, our needs, our expectations, our little possibilities.
If we remain there, without fleeing elsewhere, then something happens, and we can see with the very gaze of Jesus, who knows how to see something that we usually do not perceive.
Jesus sees that little, if shared, is enough to feed many, precisely according to the logic that the parables of chapter XIII have taught us to understand.
Because the Kingdom begins and passes through small things, things that do not habitually attract our gaze and on which we would not rest our security, on what, at first sight, would seem insufficient to us, or even not suitable.
All this will find its climax precisely in the death of the Lord Jesus, of which that of the Baptist was a prophetic announcement: where there seems to be nothing left, the seed is only rotting, underground, and in silence and solitude, like that which Jesus sought in vain today, He prepares the harvest that will feed the crowds, and not for one day.