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The Feeding of the Multitudes

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Let’s have a taste of the Fathers.  I have written about the Feeding of the Multitudes here, but what I’ve written is something that one can readily find better expressed in the classics of biblical interpretation.

The first selection is from Jerome who comments on the words

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. As he went ashore he saw a great throng; and he had compassion on them, and healed their sick.

Jerome illustrates how the spiritual sense of a text is drawn from the literal meaning: that a faith that sincerely seeks the Lord receives its reward.

The second selection is from Ambrose of Milan who shows the typological meaning of the healing and the feeding of the multitudes: first the call  (“and when they heard”) that heals in baptism, and then afterwards the celestial banquet. The crowds in the gospel of course do not yet receive the full meal that the Lord reserves to the baptized. But in the story, baptism and the eucharist are adumbrated in the healing and the feeding of multitudes.

The Compassion of Jesus

In the words of the gospel, the letter is always united to the spirit and if some particular element in the former seems to you to be without heat, if you touch, you’ll see that it burns. The Lord was in the desert and the crowd followed him, leaving behind their city, that is their old habits and their different beliefs. The fact that Jesus descends from the boat, signifies that the crowds certainly intended to come to him, but did not have the necessary strength to do it. For this reason, the Savior descends from the place where he was and goes to meet them, in the same way that in another parable the father runs towards the repentant son (Luke 15:20). Seeing the crowds, he had compassion over them and cured the sick so as to immediately give to a full and sincere faith, its reward.

Jerome, In Matthaeum, II 14, 14

The Search for Jesus in the Desert

Note well to whom the food is distributed. Not to the propertied, not to those who dwell in the cities, that is in the Synagogues or those among the honored of this world, but to those who seek Christ in the desert; those who without boredom are accepted by Christ, and the Word of God speaks with them, not about earthly questions, but about the Kingdom of Heaven. And if someone had some wound or some weakness of the body, He gives medicine generously to these.

It was therefore logical that He would save with spiritual nourishment from hunger those whom he had healed from the sorrows of their own wounds. No one therefore receives the nourishment of Christ if one has not yet been healed by that invitation. If there was someone lame, this, in order to come, would have had the possibility to walk; if there was one deprived of the light of the eyes, certainly, he wouldn’t have entered the house of the Lord without him being given the light.

Everywhere, therefore, the orderly development of the mystery is respected. first one provides remedy to the wounds through the remission of sins, afterwards, the nourishment from the celestial table is given in abundance, even if that crowd is not yet sated with food that is more substantial, nor those hearts, still unfed from a faith that is more firm, are nourished with with the Body and Blood of Christ.

Ambrose, In Lucam 6, 69-71

Originally posted 2008-07-22 17:56:20. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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