The eve of Pentecost

In verses from St Luke (chapter 9: 1-17), read this morning, Jesus feeds five thousand, from five loaves and two fish. It is the only miracle story, except the resurrection, that appears in all four Gospels, and one that retains the capacity, even in moments when we are most down, to remind us of the inexpressible bounty and goodness of God.  Julian of Norwich wrote towards the end of her Revelations of Divine Love, “In God’s sight we do not fall; in our own sight we do not stand.  I see both to be true.  But God’s sight is the higher truth.” (p.208)


On this eve of Pentecost, it is common for Christians to approach the festival of the coming of the Holy Spirit with awe and wonder, acknowledging that a small band of apparently unremarkable followers of Jesus became transformed; empowered; renewed.  The imagining of what is possible is the seed that Jesus sowed in the days before he left them.  They were not men and women who saw themselves as confidently standing, but they did have faith that Jesus was not leaving them alone, comfortless and fallen.   They believed that what the risen Lord said was true.


Though Luke does not report that the five loaves and two fish were offered by a boy, John gives us that information, we have it in mind that Jesus uses the gift of a child to manage this miraculous feeding.  There is sense in us making this connection, and is it not the case that adults are ever conscious that in childhood there is a closeness of trust that we lose in growing older, and seek to regain as we follow the pattern of Christ’s teaching and allow ourselves to accept that in faith all will be well? It is, indeed, a feature of Julian’s vision and writing, that all is going to be alright.


She wrote, “Despite any feelings we may have of grief or pleasure, God wants us to realise by faith that we are in fact more in heaven than on earth.”  (p.159)  Standing on that hillside in Galilee, the five thousand souls who were miraculously fed, must have felt heaven close.  That tugging open of the veil of our limited sight, to see further than we normally can, and understand more than our mental capacity can cope with, is equally stretched as we read again, as we shall tomorrow, the remarkable experience of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  We shall sing the hymns and read from the Acts, and, from the witness of John, once more, we shall fill the breath of Christ and hear his words, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  This promise is for all time, and even for eternity.


John Mann

(quotations from: Julian of Norwich Revelations of Divine Love - Penguin Classics 1966)