|Isaiah tells us that life giving richness comes from listening heedfully to the Word of God. The impoverished Jewish nation will now become the recipients of the Davidic Covenant. Recall that the Temple in Jerusalem had a courtyard for the Gentiles. David made many alliances with Gentile communities as he was being hunted down by Saul. All of this was pointing to a final invitation to a new and eternal covenant fulfilled by Christ and opened to all of God’s human creation. It could be said that this coming to water was an invitation to the Holy Spirit’s action in the new life of Baptism. Jesus’ new life will be a life that cannot be purchased but only offered by God for us to freely accept.
In the Gospel, Jesus reacts to the murder of His cousin, John the Baptist, by withdrawing and being alone by Himself and the ever present Father, perhaps to mourn or to contemplate His future fate by the same evil people. He is, however, moved to pity and His vocation to care for the crowds who greeted Him as He disembarked on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He, the Good Shepherd, is the water they are coming to drink and He tends to their physical needs by curing the sick.
As evening approached Jesus performed a miracle by multiplying two fish and five loaves miraculously to feed the crowd. Behind this miracle two important mysteries are being anticipated – Eucharist and the Church.
First, if Jesus can change water into wine and two fish and five loaves to feed a crowd, surely He can change wine and bread into His Blood and Body.
Second, at the time of Christ, people saw numbers as a literary form. These two fish and five loaves total the number seven. Seven, in their minds, was the perfect number. (That is why the Devil is symbolized by the number six – one less than perfect.) This number may represent the seven Sacraments – the tools of the Church. It could also represent the seven Gentile nations of Canaan showing a desire for unity of Jew and Gentile in the Church. Finally, it could represent the seven Deacons who go out into the Hellenistic world to convert the Gentiles. The twelve baskets of leftovers might be a way of conveying that the twelve tribes of Israel, who have rejected Jesus, will be destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
More commonly accepted, the number twelve could be symbolic of the twelve Apostles who will form the Church after Jesus ascends into Heaven. The Twelve remain in Jesus’ mission to convert the twelve tribes of the Jews while Paul will become the Apostles to the Gentiles. This multiplication of loaves also recalls,
“bringing from the storeroom both the new and the old,” the miracle of the multiplication of oil and grain of Elisha for the widow and her son and of Moses, where manna and quails miraculously appear in the desert.