August 7, 2022

Homily One for the Eighth Sunday of Matthew (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on July 23, 1950)

You have heard in the current Gospel reading about one of the greatest miracles of Christ - about the feeding of five loaves and two fishes to more than five thousand people.

Why did the Lord create this miracle? What is its significance for us? Why did the Lord perform His miracles at all?

We find the answer to this question in the Evangelist Matthew, who says this: “Jesus departed from there in a boat to a deserted place alone; and the people, when they heard about it, followed Him out of the city on foot.”

And the people, having learned about this, followed Him in crowds, walking along the shore of the lake. “And going out, Jesus saw a multitude of people; and had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Mt. 14:13, 14).

He took pity on them - that's where the answer is. Love for the unfortunate human race, love, which is the essence of the Divine nature of the Savior, guided Him first of all in all His actions, and in the creation of His miracles. But not only love, there were other extremely important, deep reasons for the Lord to work His wondrous miracles: He taught us with miracles.

When, at His command, the apostle Peter threw the net into the sea after working in vain all night, and pulled out a full net of fish, he fell at the feet of the Savior, and the Lord said to him: “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men” (Luke 5:10).

You see, in this miracle there was a prototype of what the holy Apostle Peter would become, a prototype of what he would be - a fisher of human souls.

When the Lord raised Lazarus from the dead after four days, who had already been lying in the tomb, there was reflected in this not only His love, love that even tears flowed from His eyes, but this was also done in order to show the whole world that the Lord has power over death and even over decay.

One could say the same about other miracles of Christ, but let us dwell on the miraculous nourishment of the people and delve into the depth of the significance of this miracle. What is this depth?

The answer is found in the words of Jesus Himself.

When, after the healing of the demon possessed Gadarene, the Lord Jesus Christ got into the boat and crossed to the other side of the lake, and the people ran along the shore of the lake and met Him with delight. Then he said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.”

For them, the most important thing was the saturation of bread. They knew how to appreciate a miracle in itself, and the Lord accustomed their thoughts to the fact that they would know the great goal of this wondrous miracle. He told them: “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him” (John 6:26-33) .

Strive not for perishable food, not only for bread. Remember that "man will not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4) .

Take care, therefore, not about temporal, not about earthly food, but about food that endures into eternal life, about spiritual food.

For it is not only our body that needs food; our immortal soul longs for truth, longs for eternal life. Our soul also needs food, much more than the body needs bodily food.

It is impossible, it is impossible to live without food for the soul, it is impossible to leave our soul to starve, as happens with many, countless people.

Our soul, as Tertullian, one of the Fathers of the second century, said, is by nature a Christian.

And if so, if she is a Christian by nature, then how can she live without Christ, without the word of Christ, without communion with God the Father and the Holy Spirit in prayers and mysteries?

It cannot, it cannot: it will starve, sometimes it will die of hunger.

You Christians know with your heart, you know this thirst for spiritual food, this hunger of the soul. You know how you need spiritual food, how you suffer, how your soul is starving when you do not hear the word of God, how you long to hear at least a little from the word of God.

And those who are far from Christ, who live only the life of the earth, appreciating only the blessings of the earth, are they not starving?

No, they are starving, they are very hungry, but they do not realize it. Their souls do not know how to explicitly demand the food of the word of God, but the hunger of their souls manifests itself in an unaccountable, painful anguish.

Among all pleasures, among the satisfaction of lusts and passions, in a whirlwind of joy, wealth and luxury, they are often attacked by a deep, painful longing. Often they all suddenly become unloving, empty.

The soul cries, the soul yearns, and they vaguely feel this longing of their Christian soul. The soul demands that its tears be wiped away. The soul asks for food immeasurably higher than those pleasures with which people who are far from spiritual life try to console it. The soul cries, the soul yearns, finds no place for itself anywhere.

This suggests that it is impossible to drown out the voice of the soul, the voice of one's conscience, with impunity.

This is what the Lord Jesus Christ said about spiritual food. They listened to Him and very poorly understood and told Him: “What shall we do to do the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them: "Behold, it is the work of God that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (John 6:28-29).

This is the first and most important of all things - to believe in God the Father and in the Son of God, whom the Father sent.

The people listened, and His words seemed strange to them: why should they believe in Him? And they said to Him: “What sign will You give, so that we can see and believe You?"

They needed a sign, they needed evidence, their hearts did not yet know the love of Christ.

“Our fathers ate manna in the wilderness, as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat, which was a real sign that Moses gave them bread from heaven." Jesus said to them: "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven, but My Father gives you true bread from heaven.”

The manna was not the true bread of God, it was only a type of the True Bread that God would later give them. "For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world" (John 6:30-33).

This is the kind of bread the Lord Jesus Christ spoke about, this is the incorruptible food. This is the inner meaning of the great miracle of feeding the five thousand.

By this miracle, the Lord prepared human hearts to understand that there is another, Divine, eternal food, food for the soul; prepared for the understanding that He Himself, the Son of God, is this food, He Himself is the Bread that came down from heaven, that He gave His Flesh for the life of the world.

Remember this. Remember more often this great gospel story about the Lord feeding a huge crowd of people.

Remember that it signified that heavenly food, without which the soul cannot live.

Remember that your souls are hungry, that it needs heavenly food, food of a completely, completely different order than bodily food, and never leave your soul without this food, just as you do not leave your body without food.

Remember that "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."

Always remember the word of God, learn from it; listen to it with deep attention; delve into it, penetrate it.

And ask for help from Christ Himself our God. Ask Him to help you understand the wondrous meaning of what you are reading, for in the Gospel you read the words of Christ, those words the likes of which the world has never heard and will never hear.

And this will be the most necessary food for your souls. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.