Meditation of the week

Bread of life

Luke 9,11-17.               

The Feeding of the Five Thousand is the only miracle of Jesus narrated by all four gospels. The twelve, having returned from their first missionary experience, are taken by Jesus to Bethsaida, a town on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, for a time alone by themselves. The crowds, discovering where they have gone, soon derail his plans for privacy and arrive on the scene where they are welcomed by the Lord. He talks to them about the kingdom of God, the focus of all his preaching, and heals those in need of healing.

The time flies and before they realize it evening has almost arrived, forcing the disciples to address the practicalities of where the crowds can be fed and lodged in the neighbourhood of Bethsaida. Reluctant to send them away, as the apostles suggest, Jesus asks the disciples what food they have. The five loaves and two fish available are negligible before the 5000 men alone, who need feeding. Having ordered the disciples to sit them down in groups of fifty, Jesus, performing the usual duties of a host at a meal, takes the bread and fish, raises his eyes to heaven to thank God for them, blesses them, breaks them and gives them to his disciples to distribute. All eat as much as they want, and twelve baskets of fragments are collected afterwards.

We are not given the reaction of the crowd to this miracle, here.  In John 11,14-15 the people said Jesus was a prophet and they wanted to make king on the spot. However, it is not difficult to imagine the joy, gratitude, wonder and expectation the people would have felt. The banquet theme is used in the Old Testament (Is. 25,6-8; 34,6; 55,1f) as an image of Messianic times, when God will reverse the fortunes of the poor and needy, redress injustices and inaugurate an era of happiness for his people, and especially the poor.  For Luke meals, banquets and table-fellowship (at least 9 instances of such in his gospel) are an anticipation of the heavenly banquet at the end of time when God will completely establish his kingdom.

For him too, the taking, giving thanks/blessing, breaking and giving of the bread is an anticipation of the celebration of the Eucharist at the last Supper. Earthly food is an analogue for the spiritual food of the Eucharist. Both are essential, life-giving and sustaining in their respective ways.

The Eucharist is the Bread of Life, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. In today’s feast we celebrate the truth of the Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist. When we receive Holy Communion we are united with Christ; we become one with him, and through him we become one with each other, as well.

One very practical way of living out our oneness in Christ would be to show real solidarity with the hungry of the world. We can do this through supporting CAFOD, Christian Aid, or Mary’s Meals.

A way of celebrating our oneness with Christ would be to spend some time before the Blessed Sacrament listening and speaking to the Lord about the great mystery of the Eucharist.

The 7 Secrets of the Eucharist by Vinny Flynn is a brief, modern, very readable and insightful book about the Eucharist which I would recommend wholeheartedly to anyone wishing to deepen their knowledge of and devotion to the Eucharist.

“O  Sacrament Most Holy. O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine.”

Fr Geoff O’Grady