5 August. Monday of the Eighteenth Week
Num 11:4ff. Hankering for their former food-supply in Egypt, people complain; Moses regrets their ingratitude.
Matt 14:13ff. Jesus cures the sick and multiplies food in a deserted place.
First Reading: Numbers 11:4-14
So they said to one another, “Let us choose a captain, and go back to Egypt.”
Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the Israelites. And Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to all the congregation of the Israelites, “The land that we went through as spies is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only, do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they are no more than bread for us; their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” But the whole congregation threatened to stone them. Then the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites. And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? I will strike them with pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”
But Moses said to the Lord, “Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for in your might you brought up this people from among them, and they will tell the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that you, O Lord, are in the midst of this people; for you, O Lord, are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them and you go in front of them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.
Gospel: Matthew 14:13-21
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.
When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
The Generous Option
There’s a striking comparison in today’s texts. While providing food in the wilderness, Moses yields to the people’s complaint, and in a similar context Jesus gets his disciples to feed the crowds, in spite of their initial fear that this was not possible.
Jesus’ disciples were tempted to take the easy way out of the difficulty of feeding a hungry crpwd. They suggested, “Send them off to the villages to buy food for themselves.” When faced with others in need, our first response can be to say it’s not our business to help. How much more helpful if we ask ourselves, what help care could we offer? Much can still be achieved with today’s equivalent of five loaves and the two fish, if we approach things with the security that God will not let us down.