Today’s gospel passage is Luke’s version of Jesus’ miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish. This is one of the most significant miracles of Jesus as is evident from the fact that it appears in all four gospels. The scenario is quite familiar: there is a large, hungry crowd; the disciples bring this to the attention of Jesus; he instructs them, almost casually, to provide food for them; the disciples protest that this is clearly impossible since they have scarcely enough for themselves.
In spite of their reservations, the disciples obey Jesus when, having blest the loaves and fish, he asks them to distribute them to the hungry crowd. To their total amazement, there is not only enough for all those present, but twelve baskets filled with fragments are left over.
We can easily understand why the Church has chosen this gospel story for the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, for the primary theme of this feast is the nourishment that Jesus offers us in the Blessed Sacrament. We are now the hungry multitude and we are reminded that Jesus offers us a nourishment that fully satisfies our needs. This is so because the food he offers is his own life, given for us.
There is obviously something miraculous about the way in which Jesus solves the problem of the hungry multitude. We should admire that and see it as a sign of the concern and generosity of Jesus. But we should also remember that all the miracles of Jesus’ early ministry were intended to show that he was approved by God and that his message should be trusted. After all, those whom Jesus fed or cured all got hungry or sick again and died. These miracles do not constitute salvation; they are simply the introduction of the Savior.
There is, however, an even more important lesson here. We can readily identify with the disciples as we face overwhelming problems in our own world. There is so much violence and injustice that we often feel paralyzed by the enormity of the challenge. Like the disciples, we feel that we have meager resources for dealing with these problems. Nonetheless, Jesus tells us also to take what little we have and to do what we can with it. There is an implied promise that God will join us and turn our “five loaves and two fish” into food for the multitude…with an abundance left over!
As we celebrate the Eucharist, we find again a super abundance that can nourish us in spite of great need. In the Mass, Jesus offers himself under the appearance of a few small wafers and a few drops of wine in a way that can nourish the whole world. Those of us who share in this divine meal should not only feel wonderfully nourished ourselves but also empowered to share our good fortune with all the hungry people whom we meet. No matter how poor we think we are, we become rich, for ourselves and for others, when we receive the boundless gift of God’s love in the Eucharistic banquet.
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.
Image: Altar decorated for Corpus Christi. Saint Vincent Archabbey Archives.