A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
This Sunday is often called Mothering Sunday, or refreshment Sunday, partly because of the opening line from our epistle, and partly because of the message of nourishment and refreshment in the Gospel. Apart from His Passion, the feeding of the five thousand stands out among our Lord’s earthly life as one of only two events (along with His baptism) recorded in all four gospels. It marks a crucial moment in His ministry, and so too in our Lenten journey.
The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes presents us with a Messiah who is more than a great teacher, or bringer of divine healing. Either of these would set Him apart as a figure of unique power and authority, but we would be left uncertain as to His real place among us. Is He a messenger of divine wisdom, from whom we must garner such knowledge as we can? Is He the source of new mystical power, from which we may gain a blessing if we are so fortunate? Is He a guru, a shaman, a medicine man, a mystic, an angel, an emanation from heavenly places come to set us on a better course?
The feeding of the five thousand puts to rest all these troubling questions. Jesus is indeed healer, and teacher, and the very image of heaven, but He is more than these: He is truly, utterly, and profoundly, with us. He is the teacher who also has pity and compassion, and who provides for the life of His disciples out of His own substance. He makes Himself their way in the desert. He is Himself the promise of life, fulfilled. Lord, give us this day our daily bread: this was the constant hope and prayer of Israel as they made their way through the lifeless and merciless desert to the promised land. And daily, God fulfilled their hope, according to His word. Now, in His earthly appearing, the Son makes plain what then was still hidden: “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” As we reach the point of no return, where faith meets the real test of any earthly help or aid removed from us, as we find ourselves beyond our own power to provide life, just in that place of absolute need and vulnerability, the Lord accomplishes our rescue by His present life and care for us. Out of His love, He provides our salvation. “Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”
We call this day refreshment, and Mothering Sunday, because today we find the grace and mercies of God committed to the accomplishment of our heavenly homecoming. Today we find that we may look up to the eternal and perfect glories of God, and know that our place is also there, with Him, because here in our earthly pilgrimage, we taste His heavenly food, the body and blood of His Son. We, who feared to beg crumbs from the table, are brought to the high seat of the feast, and taught the songs of our homeland so that we who were barren may break forth and cry, rejoicing in the hope of our redemption, ever present, even as we pray, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven’.