The miraculous feeding we hear of in our Gospel this weekend has always been seen by the Church Fathers as an image of the Eucharist. Using a formula which was familiar to the Jewish people, there is the breaking of the bread, and the giving of thanks. The Greek work for “thanksgiving” is eucharisteo, where we get our word “Eucharist.”
We might note then, that in this great miracle of the feeding of the 5000, as in the Last Supper, and, in fact, in every Jewish prayer of blessing over food, thanksgiving precedes the meal.
Many of us have learnt this as children. How often did our parents say to us “say thank you …” ? But let’s be honest, this thankfulness can wear out, we can begin to take our good fortune for granted, and, after a while, even the misfortune of others fails to remind us how thankful we ought to be.
In the economy of the Kingdom of God however, thanksgiving is the platform upon which we base our actions. We begin with thanks, knowing that having acknowledged God, and accepted our dependence on God’s providence – we then stand at the door way of the supernatural, the place of the miraculous.
St. Paul told the Thessalonians, to Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thess. 5:16-18) Especially when we are facing our challenges, this is the time to offer thanksgiving, recognizing that the Lord is our source for what we are about to encounter. We can’t operate on conditional thanksgiving.
Our Gospel this weekend might remind us that we are still in the age of miracles – at each celebration of Holy Mass we too are fed by the bread which comes down from heaven. Let’s be thankful, always, for this great gift.