Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up the mountain, where he sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them, so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.
Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?’ Jesus asked them, ‘How many loaves have you?’ They said, ‘Seven, and a few small fish.’ Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.
2020 has been a very strange year. For some it has been a chance to re-think and re-invent the way that daily lives are lived out; for others it has been a year of despair. For some it has brought a time of renewed creativity; for others it has seen the decline of health and isolation from family and friends. For some it has been the year they have been waiting for; for others it has been the manifestation of their very worst kind of nightmare. However we view 2020, none of us can deny that it has been a very strange year. Whether we are ‘glass half full’ or ‘glass half empty’ people in respect to the events of this year, today’s reading can offer us some consolation and hope.
Let us put ourselves in the moment of today’s reading. It occurs just halfway through the gospel of St Matthew. Jesus has been teaching and healing for some time. Jesus’ fame (for want of a better word) had spread throughout the region. Jesus had reached that point in his ministry when his very presence, or just the rumour of his impending presence, attracted large crowds. That is where we find ourselves today. Jesus is journeying through the towns and villages that lie on the edge of the Sea of Galilee, and people had heard that he was in the neighbourhood. The people flocked to see him, but they did not gather to see a ‘pop star’ like figure. Their motivation was not merely the opportunity to say they had seen some ‘celebrity’. They were driven by a need for healing, and that need was both great and urgent.
We are told that great crowds came to see him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute and many others. Furthermore, we are told that not only were those in need of healing brought to Jesus, but that he cured them. We talk of healing, but today’s reading speaks of ‘cure’. When we buy some foodstuff that has been ‘cured’ we know that we are going to be experiencing something that has had its very nature changed. Through some process, some interaction of ingredients, the flavour, the texture, the colour, the very substance of that foodstuff will have been changed. That is what we see Jesus doing today. We see Jesus changing people … giving them the opportunity to continue their earthly journey on a totally different path.
Then, having heard of the curing of the great crowds, we see Jesus nourishing those same people. Jesus’ cure for those people was not a superficial change to the visible aspect of their being, he also fed them with a miraculous feast … a feast that was rooted in his compassion for them, a compassion that overflowed and left seven baskets full of leftovers.
Jesus is constantly offering us the miracle of his curing touch. He is offering us the opportunity to have every aspect of our natures transformed into a person who is made well in God’s sight. As we journey towards our celebration of Christ’s Incarnation, are we ready to put aside the ‘glass half empty’ aspect of our natures and let God top us up with joy and love? Are we ready to journey to Jesus in humility and prayer and let him do the rest?