"A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs"
Look around you at the empty places in the pews, where someone else once sat. Where are they now? Have they ended their earthly pilgrimage perhaps and met the Lord Himself? Or perhaps, sadly, they have fallen away and no longer seek Him here. These are the "large crowd" who still seek God only for the signs of health, or wealth or other earthly satisfactions which do not last. These are the ones who claim to "follow Him" but do not find themselves here with us today.
From 5,000 to 12 by means of 7. Today's Gospel takes us back to Moses and the Chosen People in the desert through the living Word of Life and through the sacramental encounter, particularly in the Eucharist, to the present and the remnant people we see today. The five loaves which harken back to the manna by which God fed Moses and his 5,000 together with the two fish which represent Moses' fulfillment in Christ, true God and true Man, make seven which signify perfection. The seven sacraments are the signs and sources of perfect and Eternal Life which is found only in Jesus Christ through His Church, in which is now found the remnant people of the twelve tribes of old built anew upon the twelve Apostles.
"There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?"
Christ and the 5,000, not including women and children, who spontaneously followed Him to the other side of the sea of Galilee with no thought for their next meal, are a reminder of the first 5,000 who, with Moses, were brought out of the Red Sea and fed with the manna from heaven as a remnant saved by God's intervention. Once satisfied with earthly food the Galileans remind us also of the Chosen People in their search for signs, for the account ends with Christ eluding their grasp because they seek to make him a mere earthly king. They have failed to seek and to possess Jesus Christ through the power of Faith and the source of the loaves and fishes.
"Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them"
The Eucharist to which Jesus points in the Gospel, taking bread, giving thanks and distributing it as He does to the people, is one of the seven means by which we grasp Jesus now, not as a source of mere earthly food but rather as the One who is our Bread for life eternal.
This is why He teaches that the Eucharist is no ordinary bread like the manna in the desert or the meal for the 5,000 in today's Gospel but rather His Body and Blood, really and substantially present.
And the twelve baskets full? God's love abundant and meant for all. Not only for us who are here now but for all mankind, including those who have fallen away from the chosen people of today which is the Church built upon the twelve Apostles in her pilgrimage through the desert of this world which can never itself be the source of true Life found only and ever in God.
And this Eucharistic banquet which the Lord established is the moment in which we seek Him, coming forward as we do at the Communion of the Mass with reverence in worship to receive Jesus Christ the eternal Bread and Source of Life.
"Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone."
Idolatry seeks a god in this world who cannot truly give what we really need who is God, the only source of all that is good. If we seek the divine Son always in Faith He will not elude our grasp but rather will be for us the Source of Life who leads us safely to the eternal banquet of overflowing love and joy in the place prepared for us by our heavenly Father. We follow Him faithfully in the Church and her sacramental life.
"This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world."