When Jesus Left the Poor Hungry
The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes has a coda in a minor key. Jesus flees because he knows the crowd will try to make him a worldly, bread-giving king. Then he escapes across the sea of Galilee under cover of darkness, leaving the crowd hungry and without food. Urged on by their empty bellies, the crowd pursues Jesus.
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.John 6:24-26 (NABRE).
The crowds had been fed by the multiplied loaves. Their empty bellies had been filled. When they woke up to find Jesus gone, they determined to hunt him down. Not because they loved him, or even because they were impressed by his miracles, but because of the brute fact that he had filled their bellies with bread.
Like many Catholics today, they have lost sight of (or never known) the divinity of Christ and the supernatural reality of the Church. To "solve poverty" is the thing. ("The exploitation of the planet has already exceeded acceptable limits and we still have not solved the problem of poverty." Laudato Si, 27.) To solve poverty? Not just feed the hungry, but "solve poverty" as if some philosophy or program were capable of such a thing! In their pride they imagine they can and must save a 4.5 billion year old planet designed, made and sustained by God.
Returning to the Gospel, what words would they have for a Jesus who leaves the poor hungry? Probably nothing very nice, although if He were willing to learn, they would be happy to teach Him.
|Pope Francis: "We have still not solved the problem of poverty!"|
The modern current of the Church is that of Dostoyevsky's famous Grand Inquisitor from The Brothers Karamazov. "Feed us first, and then command us to be generous!" The Grand Inquisitor tells Jesus the poor will write that on their banners. In this tale within the novel, told by atheistic Ivan, the Catholic Grand Inquisitor holds Jesus prisoner. He condemns Him for rejecting Satan's three temptations. Mankind cannot bear the Gospel. Better to treat him as contented cattle.
The Grand Inquisitor has lost faith in God, and bears a cold, godless faith in the world.
When Jesus fasted in the wilderness for forty days, one of Satan's three temptations could not have been more simple: turn these stones into bread! But Jesus knew he had not come for bellies, but for souls. Almost gently, he redirects the worldly temptation into a ringing supernatural truth.
One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.Matthew 4:4 (NABRE).
Today many of our prelates seem to be saying, "Let us see to bread on earth; then we shall worry about pie in the sky later."
"Pie in the Sky" was Socialist agitprop which made fun of the idea of heaven.
You will eat, by and by,
In the glorious land above the sky.
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die,
It might have been sung in fun by the poor who wanted to make Jesus their bread-giving king. It has probably been sung by more than one cleric, Little Red Songbook in hand. Clerics who have lost the whole point of their vocation.
But what comes next makes clear the supernatural purpose of Christ's coming. It was to these poor, hungry, confused people that Jesus patiently explained that He was the Bread of life.
So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen [me], you do not believe.John 6:32-40 (NABRE).
Of course, most thought this supernatural business was nonsense. (They still do.) They turned their back on Jesus, and no doubt went in search of breakfast, angrily singing "Pie In the Sky" as they went.
It is not recorded that Jesus fed the poor here, although he could have. If that is what the Christian religion is about, why did Jesus not set a better example?
Next: God and Mammon