Actually these are true stories, but we need to listen to them in a different way, because the “action” is taking place at two levels: the physical or “real” level, and the symbolic (spiritual) level.
First let’s look at the “real” or physical level. The Prophet Elisha tells his servant to give twenty barley loaves to the one hundred men seated there (2 Kgs 4:42-44). We hear the usual protest from the servant: “Hey Elisha, there’s not enough to go around!” Do it anyway, he is told; and everyone eats his fill, with some left over. The same thing happens in the Gospel (Jn 6:1-15). Phillip protests that even with two-hundred denarii, they would only get a small piece each to eat, and all they had were five barley loaves. Jesus himself passed out the five small barley loaves of bread to the five thousand men reclining there. They ate as much as they wanted, and twelve baskets-full were left over! That is the physical level; we use our sense of sight to “see the evidence.”
But there is another, more important level, the symbolic (spiritual) level. Both Elisha and Jesus are the “agents” of God. First they speak the ‘word of God,’ and then from that word flows bread in great abundance. Clearly there is a direct link between this life-giving bread and the life-giving word of God! We recall another gospel passage where Jesus reminds us that this word of God is especially life-giving in times of temptation. As he told the Tempter (and therefore us), mankind does not live by physical bread alone, but by every word from the mouth of God.
The Liturgy of the Word, the first part of our Eucharistic celebration, reminds us of all that Christ has done for us, and nourishes our faith, which is also a gift from the Holy Spirit. This prepares us to receive the food of eternal life. The world will be united and at peace only when it draws together to seek life together from the One bread of life, Jesus Christ.