“Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.” John 6:12–13
John’s Gospel is filled with much symbolic meaning. The passage above concludes the story of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. After feeding the multitude of people with only five barley loaves and two fish, they were able to fill twelve wicker baskets with what remained. What was the reason for the extra?
Saint Augustine, in commenting upon this passage, explains that Jesus provided more than the people could eat as a way of symbolically representing spiritual truths that were beyond what the vast crowds could comprehend. Thus, Jesus’ teachings spiritually nourished the crowds to the point that they were fully satisfied. But even though the general crowds were satisfied with what Jesus taught them, there was still so much more that He had to teach. These deeper spiritual truths are represented by the extra twelve baskets.
The twelve baskets represent the Twelve Disciples. They were the ones specially chosen by Jesus to receive so much more. Recall the times when Jesus taught the crowds in parables and then, later, would explain the meaning to the Twelve in private. He revealed to them certain truths that most people could not understand and accept.
It is helpful to consider three different groups of people in this miracle and apply those groupings to us today. The first group of people are those who were not even present for the miracle. Those who did not make the journey to be with Jesus in the wilderness. This is the largest group of people within society who go about their daily lives without even seeking minimal nourishment from our Lord.
The second grouping of people is this “large crowd” who followed Jesus to the remote side of the Sea of Galilee to be with Him. These represent those who diligently seek out our Lord every day. These are those who are faithful to the celebration of the Mass, the reading of Scripture, to daily prayer and study. To this grouping of people, our Lord teaches many things, and they are nourished by His holy Word and Sacraments.
The third grouping of people, the Twelve Disciples who are represented by the Twelve wicker baskets left over, are those who are exceptionally faithful to our Lord and continue to be nourished by Him in a superabundant way. These are those who seek to understand and embrace the deepest spiritual truths so as to be nourished and transformed on the deepest level.
Reflect, today, upon the fact that the spiritual food our Lord wishes to offer you is most often far more than you can immediately accept and consume. But understanding that fact is the first step to disposing yourself to receive even more. As you reflect upon this superabundance of spiritual food from our Lord, recommit yourself especially to seek out that remaining “twelve wicker baskets” of spiritual truths. If you do, you will discover that there is truly no end to the transforming depths of the gifts of grace our Lord wishes to bestow upon you.
My most generous Lord, You not only give spiritual nourishment to Your people, You give it in superabundance. As I daily seek You out and am filled with Your mercy, help me to never tire of feasting upon the superabundant gift of Your grace. Please do nourish me, dear Lord, and help me to consume Your holy Word. Jesus, I trust in You.