In today’s gospel (Tuesday between Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord), we hear of Jesus feeding the 5,000 as told in Mark 6:34-44. Jesus feeds so many with so little. It is a powerful image. The feeding of the multitude is so powerful and important, it is found in all four gospels. In John’s Gospel, it is one of the seven great signs that points to Jesus as the Son of God, God’s power is at work in Jesus.
Yet, as we hear this gospel, we are still in our Christmas season. Our Christmas season does not end until we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord this Sunday. So, why do we read the feeding of the multitude this week?
Visualize our nativity scene depicting Jesus’ birth. Where was he laid? It was not a crib meant for a baby. He was laid in a manger.
A manger is not designed for a human baby to sleep in. It is not even designed for a baby animal to sleep in. A “manger” is a food trough for animals, a place where their food is placed for them to eat.
So why is Jesus laid in a manger? Because He is the food we need for eternal life. Certainly, the feeding of the multitude in today’s gospel points to Jesus feeding us with the Bread of Life.
To fully appreciate the ways (note the plural) in which Jesus feeds us, look at the first line in today’s gospel, “When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” Jesus saw their need to be fed. His first response was to teach them. He first fed them with his Word and then with the bread.
This is the Mass. We are first fed with God’s Word from Scripture and then with the Bread of Life. It began with Jesus lying in the manger.