THE EUCHARIST AS A SPIRITUAL NOURISHMENT TO HIS FOLLOWERS UNTIL THE END OF TIME
(A biblical reflection on the 18th Ordinary Sunday [Year A] – 2 August 2020)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 14:13-21
First Reading: Isaiah 55:1-3; Psalms: Psalm 145:8-9,15-18; Second Reading: Romans 8:35,37-39
The Scripture Text
Now when Jesus heard this, He withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart. But when the crowds heard it, they followed Him on foot from the towns. As He went ashore He saw a great throng; and He had compassion on them, and healed their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food rot themselves.” Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to Him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Then He ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass; and taking the five loaves and the two fish He looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides woman and children. (Matthew 14:13-21 RSV)
Today’s Gospel Reading is St. Matthew’s account of the miracle of the multiplication of bread to feed a multitude – a miracle related by the three other Evangelists also. In all four Gospels this miracle is seen as a foreshadowing of the Eucharistic meal which Christ was to provide miraculously for the multitude of His followers. In St. John’s Gospel this is clearly indicated, for it was the occasion of Christ’s discourse on the Eucharist (John 6:27-40). In the other Gospels certain phrases, like “blessed, broke, gave to His disciples”, occur which would remind the readers already familiar with the Eucharistic liturgy, of the institution of the Eucharist.
This miracle also brought out the Messiahship of Christ, for the miraculous feeding of the hungry was to be one of the gifts of the messianic age. Moses fed the Israelites miraculously in the desert (Exodus 16:13-14); the prophet Elisha fed a hundred men miraculously (2Kings 4:42-44); the prophets frequently describe the messianic era as one of peace and plenty for everyone. In today’s first reading the second-Isaiah promises that God has prepared a banquet for all His Chosen People; all they have to do is to come to it.
This miracle of multiplication of bread was actually an act of kindness and loving thoughtfulness on the part of Christ. He saw the people’s need – it was late for them to return to their homes and they had had nothing to eat all day – and He worked a miracle to provide for this need. The miracle also helped to convince the people of Galilee – the news spread around quickly – that He was the expected Messiah, but especially it prepared the way for the announcement of the greatest miracle of all – the miracle of the Eucharist.
The bread He miraculously multiplied that day to supply the bodily needs of the Galilean multitude was but a foreshadowing of that heavenly food which He was about to give as spiritual nourishment to the millions who would become His followers down through the centuries until the end of time.
The Galileans were grateful to Him for providing so kindly and so thoughtfully for their needs. How much more grateful should we not be for the miracle by means of which He has left us Himself to be our daily spiritual food? We are grateful, of course, to our loving Lord who not only handed up His body to His enemies to be crucified for us, but through His divine power, arranged that His glorified body, triumphant over death, should remain with us, His Church, forever under the Eucharistic species.
Though invisible to mortal eyes, He is as truly present on our altars as He was that day in Galilee, when He miraculously fed the multitude. He is present under the form of bread and wine – so that we can partake of Him as spiritual nourishment during our earthly life. Could love go any further? He Himself said: “A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Yes, once a man has given his life he has given his all; there is nothing more he can give. But Christ was more than man. He was God as well, and, therefore, He was able not only to lay down His human life for us, but was able and willing to remain with us after death under Eucharistic species: to be our strength and nourishment until we join Him in the promised land of heaven.
When we compare our own unworthiness with this, almost incredible, love and thoughtfulness of Christ for us, all we can do is simply to say: “Lord, You know I am not worthy to receive You, but You say You want to come into my poor and untidy home, please make me less unworthy, forgive all my past sins and offences, and give me the grace and strength to be better in future.”
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, I am amazed by Your compassion. Thank You for sacrificing Your life on the altar of the cross so that I might have Your life in me. Thank You for feeding me with Your own self. By Your Holy Spirit, help me open myself up to the transforming power of Your love. Amen.
Jakarta, 1 August 2020
A Christian Pilgrim