In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we have the first scriptural account of what we are celebrating right here, right now. Christ revealed to Paul what He did the night before He died. Eating His final meal with His friends Jesus took a piece of bread shared it with those at table telling them ‘this is my body that is for you’ Then he took a cup of ordinary wine and offered it to them to drink saying’ this cup is the new covenant in my blood.’ Do this in remembrance of me.’ Then Paul tells the Corinthians, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim, you make known, you broadcast, you celebrate the Lord’s death until He comes.”
Our Catholic faith teaches us that bread is more than bread, wine is more than wine, it is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Not a symbol, not a memory but a living, life giving reality. Jesus told us, ‘he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him.’
This truth has much to do with today’s gospel. Jesus had been telling a crowd of about 5000 people of God’s love for them and healed those who needed healing. He’s just shown them God’s generosity toward them. He wanted to challenge their generosity to one another.
Many times in the past we’ve taken this gospel event literally. Jesus takes the five loaves and two fish and miraculously multiplies them over and over and feeds the crowd of five thousand. All ate and were filled and a clean up crew collected twelve baskets of leftovers and everyone went home impressed with this Jesus from Nazareth. But as we known from the gospels they would be back demanding another ‘sign’ that He was from God.
We can read this event and see it in another message. Jesus knew He was not dealing with dumb people. He knew from His own experience of traveling with the twelve that you always take some food and water with you. There were no convenience stores in those days. Jesus knew as well that people can be pretty stingy, unwilling to share. He took the five loaves and two fish that He had and made a show of sharing it with those people closest to Him. In this simple gesture He challenged, maybe even shamed people to do what He did and dig deep and bring out their hidden lunches and share them with others. Jesus gave them a lesson in sharing and they experienced the joy, the satisfaction that can come from being generous with strangers.
If all Jesus did was multiply loaves and fishes then the people would have left that place impressed by this wonder worker and with full stomachs and that’s all. They would leave as they came and nothing would have changed in their lives.
But Jesus was and is all about change. His words and works were meant to bring people to a deeper understanding of God’s love for them and their need to love and care for others. He is constantly calling us out of our self-centredness and asking us to open our lives to others.
An ancient formula for receiving Holy Communion was, “receive who you are, become what you receive, the Body of Christ.” Receiving communion involves far more that Jesus and me. It is not just the two of us. Communion unites us to the whole body of Christ, the Church, of which He is the head and we are the members.
Just as Jesus challenged those 5000 in today’s gospel to break out of their concerns and be involved with other’s needs He challenges us to do the same. Pope Benedict wrote a letter on the Eucharist in which says:
“When we celebrate the Eucharist, we must become ever more conscious that the sacrifice of Christ is for all, and that the Eucharist thus compels all who believe in him to become ‘bread that is broken’ for others, and to work for the building of a more just and fraternal world”
Keeping in mind the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, we need to realize that Christ continues today to exhort each one of us to become personally engaged: “You yourselves give them something to eat” (Mt 14:16). Each of us is truly called, together with Jesus, to be bread broken for the life of the world. The Pope goes on to say, “All who partake of the Eucharist must commit themselves to peacemaking in our world scarred by violence and war, and today in particular, by terrorism, economic corruption and sexual exploitation.”
The children in our school were involved in a program called ‘Me to We’ and they raised $18,000 over two years to build a school in Kenya. The Eucharist is meant to move us from me to we, whether that ‘we’ are members of our own family, our parish family, our local community or the world. Each time we receive the body of Christ we are challenged to live this Mass outside these walls in the lives we live.
As we continue to celebrate this Eucharist we can pray for ourselves and for each other that strengthened by the bread of life we will find in ourselves the generosity to move from me to we.