LOOK AT THE MOON NOT AT THE FINGER
18th SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME YEAR B
The miracle of the multiplication of the bread impressed so much the apostles, that the evangelists recorded six versions of the same event. Many tried to explain what really happened that day. Someone considered it a classic miracle, something that went beyond any human explanation; for others it was just a catechetical story meant to teach that the generosity of one boy, who offered his five bread and two fish to help Jesus, can trigger the generosity hidden in the heart of many and awaken in them the desire to imitate the boy.
What makes an impact on me more is that the narration of the story of the multiplication of the bread is read during one Sunday mass, while the explanation of this event offered by Jesus is distributed, for us listeners, in the four following Sundays masses. This confirms that the meaning of the story is not easily grasped and we need to listen attentively to the words of Jesus, during these coming four Sundays, in order to understand it correctly.
After the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus, seeing that the crowd wanted to make him king, fled over the hills to pray. In the passage of the gospel that we have read today, the crowd met Jesus. There were no greetings, no pleasantries: no protocol observed!! Jesus did not even answer the question of the crowd about how he arrived there, but denounced, without mercy, their real intention: “ You are not looking for me because you have seen the signs, but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.” The real question hidden in their heart was: “Are you ready to repeat the same miracle for us, so that we do not need to worry for our daily food again?” “Are you the “Magician”, the “Lord of the Miracles” that we are looking for and that we really need and want in order to solve our daily problems?”
They looked like the fool of a well known saying: “If you point to the moon with your finger, the fool will look at your finger, not at the moon!!” The miracle was just the “finger”, the intention of which was to direct their gaze to something different and more important than the daily food: “Work for food that endures to eternal life”. Still they did not understand. They insisted on the “finger”. Jesus tried to open their minds, to make them look beyond the sign of the multiplication of the bread, but they were struck by the abundance and goodness of the bread, not by the meaning of Jesus’ action.
During the explanation of Jesus they still persisted in their misunderstanding: “Show us a sign so that we can believe”!! Wasn’t the multiplication of the bread a powerful sign? What did they want more? Eventually they asked the question they kept in their mind since the beginning of the encounter: “Sir, give us that bread always”; they called him Sir, not Lord or Master. They treated him like a generous chairman of an NGO. “I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE. HE WHO COMES TO ME WILL NEVER BE HUNGRY; HE WHO BELIEVES IN ME WILL NEVER BE THIRSTY.” Jesus is the REAL BREAD that gives LIFE: When we “EAT HIS WORD”, our minds are nourished with the wisdom of God, we understand our life and our relations with others in a different way and his wisdom makes it possible for us to transform the place in which we live every day. The life that this bread nourishes is not the physical-biological life, but the spiritual one. When we pray: “Give us this day our daily bread ”, we do not ask only the food for the stomach, but we ask also to strengthen our friendship with Jesus himself, the real bread of life.