It is not unusual that people must pass through times of trial, sacrifice and deprivation to get to where they want to go on their life journey. People escaping from persecution and violence must often leave homes and possessions behind, suffer privation and walk great distances to get to a refugee camp or other place of safety. Such was the case for the Israelites escaping from Egypt. Despite their grumbling, however, they were not exactly in danger of dying from hunger. They still had sheep and cattle but, livestock being their most valuable possession and source of income, they did not want to slaughter their animals for food. This indicates their reluctance to put their trust and their future completely in God’s hands.
In today’s gospel, the feeding of the 5,000 is called a “sign”. Think about the purpose of signs such as our new church sign for example. It is not intended to be the ultimate focus of attention but, rather, stands for or points to something else, being the message posted. Jesus intended his healings and works such as the multiplication of loaves and fishes to be signs leading people to listen to his message and entrust their lives to God. The people, however, had more hunger for and were more focused on acquiring bread to fill their stomachs then food for eternal life.