Bread in the Wilderness
But Jesus said unto them, " They need not depart; give ye them to eat."
And they said unto him, "We have here but five loaves, and two fishes." He
said "Bring them hither to me." And he commanded the multitude to sit down
on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to
heaven, he blessed and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples
to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled; and they'took up of
the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. And they that had eaten were
about five thousand men, besides women and children.—ST. MATTHEW xiv. 16-21.
A VOICE amid the desert.
Not of him
Who, in rough garments clad, and locust-fed,
Cried to the sinful multitude, and claim'd
Fruits of repentance, with the lifted scourge
Of terror and reproof. A milder guide,
With gentler tones, doth teach the listening throng.
Benignant pity moved him as he saw
The shepherdless and poor. He knew to touch
The springs of every nature. The high lore
Of Heaven he humbled to the simplest child,
And in the guise of parable allured
The sluggish mind to follow truth and live.
They whom the thunders of the Law had stunn'd
Woke to the Gospel's melody with tears;
And the glad Jewish mother held her babe
High in her arms, that its young eye might meet
Jesus of Nazareth.
It was so still,
Though thousands cluster'd there, that not a sound
Brake the strong spell of eloquence which held
The wilderness in chains, save now and then,
As the gale freshen'd, came the murmur'd speech
Of distant billows, chafing withl the shores
Of the Tiberian Sea.
Day wore apace,
Noon hasted, and the lengthening shadows brought
The unexpected eve. They linger'd still,
Eyes fix'd and lips apart; the very breath
Constrained, lest some escaping sigh might break
The tide of knowledge, sweeping o'er their souls
Like a strange, raptured dream. They heeded not
The spent sun, closing at the curtain'd west
His burning journey. What was time to them,
Who heard entranced the eternal Word of Life?
But the weak flesh grew weary. Hunger came,
Sharpening each feature, and to faintness drain'd
Life's vigorous fount. The holy Saviour felt
Compassion for them. His disciples press,
Care-stricken, to his side: "Where shall we find
Bread in this desert?"
Then, with lifted eye,
He bless'd, and brake, the slender store of food,
And fed the famish'd thousands. Wondering awe
With renovated strength inspired their souls,
As, gazing on the miracle, they mark'd
The gather'd fragments of their feast, and heard
Such heavenly words as lip of mortal man
Had never uttered.
Thou, whose pitying heart
Yearn'd o'er the countless miseries of those
Whom thou didst die to save, touch thou our souls
With the same spirit of untiring love.
Divine Redeemer! may our fellow-man,
Howe'er by rank or circumstance disjoined,
Be as a brother in his hour of need.