17th Sunday B – Tomorrow’s Bread Today
There was something about Jesus that nourished and satisfied the crowd. Barley bread was the bread of the poor. Twelve baskets of leftovers for the crippled and the lame who didn’t make it across the sea and up the hill to where Jesus and his disciples had gathered. He gave thanks to God over the loaves and fishes and behold there was more than enough for all 5,000 of them. Jesus wanted everyone to be taken care of, those present as well as those who were not, the weak as well as the strong. The whole animal kingdom, man and beast, needs to eat for survival. Every time I see a bird, animal, mammal, or fish, he, she or it is either eating or looking for something to eat. Food is their way to life. We humans are part of the animal kingdom. We, too, need to survive. Our bodies need food, our minds need meaning, and our spirits need ultimate meaning – faith.
When we are open and welcome to the meaning of life something extraordinary can happen. God can call us to faith. Faith, trust or belief comes not from ourselves but comes as a call from God. When it happens we feel compelled to pay attention. It is something akin to a vocation. We sense the need and responsibility to follow it out. We are captured and yet we remain totally free. The experience of faith cannot be rationally explained. The call can come to us through different channels: nature, beauty, friendship, music, art, drama….even through injustice (like the prophets in the Bible) and tragedy (like the disciples after the Resurrection). Ultimately it’s a call to follow Jesus Christ. Faith is like a vision that seeks understanding. The late Michael Paul Gallagher SJ once described it as “the vision of being loved.”
Churches are re-opening cautiously and people are returning to Mass. We’ve been through a long Eucharistic drought. While watching Mass on television or online during the pandemic lockdown, some said they had wished they were there in person, though they got something out of it on screen. Has the drought unlocked a desire in people for a better understanding of what goes on at Mass? There are two sides to the Eucharist: on the one hand there’s our experience of the ritual in church, and on the other there’s the spiritual meaning of the ritual. Through faith we are enabled to join our experience of the Mass to its underlying sacramental meaning. Many have had the experience but missed the meaning. These next few weeks the Gospel will focus on the Bread of Life, an opportunity for us all to take a fresh look at the whole meaning of the Eucharist.
The twelve baskets of leftovers prompted me to think of the starving millions on our planet. Pope Francis reminds us of the worldwide and cosmic nature of the Eucharist in his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si: “When celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way a celebration on the altar of the world… In celebrating the Eucharist we are motivated to greater concern for nature and the poor… Through our worship of God we are invited to embrace the world on a different plane” – nn. 235-237. Part of the meaning of the Mass is the Creator’s call to us to care for creation, the poor and for every living thing on earth. That there is a profound link between the celebration of the Eucharist and rest of creation is only starting to dawn on Catholics today – Dermot Lane, THEOLOGY AND ECOLOGY IN DIALOGUE, chapter 7.
Fr. QQ – 07/21/2021