This week the Church is listening to the Bread of Life discourse, given by Jesus after a miraculous multiplication of two fishes and five loaves of bread. The miracle took place along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, in a place known as Tabgha, or Seven Springs. In time, around the year 350, a church was built over the rock where it was believed Jesus performed the miracle of feeding the 5,000. Around the year 450, a larger church was built, and over time, the floor was covered with mosaics.
Beneath the altar of this church was the rock of multiplication. In front of this altar, on the floor, is a widely known mosaic of the multiplication of loaves and fishes. Eventually, this church was destroyed, and the mosaics covered over, not to be rediscovered until the 1930’s. This mosaic is now preserved, and visible once again in the floor in front of the altar.
You will notice that the mosaic only contains four loaves, instead of five. The artist did this intentionally. The location of the mosaic (beneath the altar of the church) is the key to its interpretation. The ‘5th’ loaf is now upon the altar, to be broken, multiplied, and distributed in the Eucharist.
As I visited this church and heard this story, I recognized its significance for me, and for all of us who take our faith seriously. I wish to be this 5th loaf, placed upon the altar. My (our) desire is to live a life so centered in Christ, that we are willing and capable of ‘giving our self away’ through the manner in which we live our lives. Thus, through the sacramental life of the church, especially through the Eucharist, Christ takes up his dwelling within us. We become another Christ, and just as Christ became the grain of wheat, fallen to the earth to die and bear much fruit, so our lives yield to Christ, in whom we bear the fruits of love for God and our neighbor.
From this location, Jesus walked across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum (John 6:16-21) where he then delivered this well know, Bread of Life discourse.
I am the bread of life; whoever come to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. … For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.” (John 6: 35, 40)