The Lord be with you.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke.
Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God,
and he healed those who needed to be cured.
As the day was drawing to a close,
the Twelve approached him and said,
"Dismiss the crowd
so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms
and find lodging and provisions;
for we are in a deserted place here."
He said to them, "Give them some food yourselves."
They replied, "Five loaves and two fish are all we have,
unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people."
Now the men there numbered about five thousand.
Then he said to his disciples,
"Have them sit down in groups of about fifty."
They did so and made them all sit down.
Then taking the five loaves and the two fish,
and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing over them, broke them,
and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.
They all ate and were satisfied.
And when the leftover fragments were picked up,
they filled twelve wicker baskets.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Okay - the feast of Corpus Christi.
Solemnity that we celebrate today of the most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. I think there are any number of ways that we could meditate fruitfully on this feast and I'd like to do so with the help of a few questions. The first question is what.
What is the Eucharist?
Okay, what is the Eucharist? It's a good question and I think it's one that each and every one of us perhaps has puzzled over a little bit. What are we receiving when we come to Holy Communion?
What is this thing that looks like bread that we put in a monstrance and pray before?
What is happening at the altar when the priest says certain words, namely “This is my Body. This is my Blood.”
The Eucharist - rightly, straightforwardly, whether or not it's easy to believe - is Jesus.
The Eucharist is Jesus.
It is the body and blood, soul and divinity of our risen Lord.
It is not a symbol.
It is the reality.
It is Jesus - body and blood, soul and divinity.
If we don't believe that, we're not Catholic.
Okay. And it's not a surprise to you because you're here every week for good reason.
And that is because you are drawn by Jesus himself to feast on his body and blood so as to become his body and blood. You know that the Eucharist is the body, blood, soul and divinity of our risen Lord. That's the what of the sacrament.
The how of the sacrament. How does it come to be that in what looks like bread Jesus exists?
Jesus gives himself to us as food.
Well, my friends, thankfully Jesus used bread and uses the appearance of bread to feed us with his Body and Blood because we wouldn't really want to eat his body and blood if it didn't appear like something we could eat.
I'm always thankful when I'm reading especially this account of the loaves and fish that Jesus chose loaves, you know, for the perpetual sacrifice. If he’d have chosen fish, I would have had a really difficult time, you know.
I so thank you, Jesus. In your great wisdom you knew how to provide for us even down to the details. But how does it come to be that Jesus is in the Eucharist?
It comes to be because of those words that I said before. Jesus at the last supper took bread and said, “this is my Body.”
As soon as Jesus said, “this is my Body,” because he is the creator God in the flesh, because his word affects the reality that it speaks, the bread becomes Jesus’ body.
Now he didn't say, “this is my Body with some bread leftover” or “this is my Body and the bread at the same time.”
No, he said, “this is my Body.” At that point the substance of the bread disappears and what is left is the substance of Jesus himself.
“This is my Body.”
It is his body and nothing else.
I should say it's himself. It's his Body and Blood. The Body and Blood of our risen Lord and nothing else because in every little piece of the Eucharist - which is why we're so careful with how we handle the Eucharist - in every little piece exists the whole Jesus.
And the same then with the chalice. “This is my blood.”
So guess what? That's his Blood because why? He said it and it's that simple.
We don't need to spend a lot of time on transubstantiation. But that's what it is. Jesus’ Body and his Blood and no matter how small the parts we receive, we receive the whole of Jesus.
That’s the what and the how - the how is this reality affected and of course the power that affects the reality is Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross because “this is my Body which will be given up for you.”
Completing the sacrifice on the Cross, he could give us the fruit of that sacrifice: his own risen life - under the appearances under what looks like bread and wine.
Now I think those can be difficult questions. It could take up the whole of our thought and reflection but I think that our Gospel passage tonight gives us some sense of the what for, the why.
Why would Jesus do this? And we see that in this scene Jesus is calling his disciples to himself to remedy the problems that are in their midst.
What I’m presenting is hunger - the good of the crowd.
They're being fed the necessity of their being fed.
And the disciples come to Jesus and say, “we've got a problem here. We've got a problem and we don't know how to fix it. We don't have the resources to do anything about it.”
Okay, that's to begin a beautiful thing.
Because in our lives, in the little area of our life that God has entrusted to our care, our relationships and our resources and the like, we too find the task to be overwhelming.
Lord, how do I continue to love the person in front of me?
How - we have the question of Saint Peter on our lips - how many times do I have to forgive this guy?
And it doesn't matter how many times I have to do it, I can't even do it once.
Lord, I have this task in front of me. It's too big for me. My resources are too meager.
But here you go, Jesus.
You sent me to do what? You want me to do something about it. Clearly, right, he says, “give them some food yourselves.”
Give five thousand people food yourselves. Right, the task is way too big.
But they present themselves to Jesus knowing that he has the answer.
Knowing that Jesus has what it takes. Jesus has the resources. Jesus has the strength.
And we go to him with our meager contribution: our five loaves and two fish.
We have some sense that Jesus can do something about it. We know that Jesus has something - not something up his sleeve like is turning tricks or anything - like he's the trickster, right, that he’s a magician or something - but that he has something for us that will meet the needs of the task he's entrusted to our care.
Okay, so that already. One (1).
And the second part is that all ate and were satisfied.
Jesus commissioned the apostles to go and feed the people.
And they trusted him and faithfully gave themselves the task and when they did, the hunger of the entire crowd was satisfied.
Jesus gave them what they needed. He gave them what they needed to overflowing - the wicker baskets were full.
Jesus gives us more.
What grace it is for us, just like what grace it is for the apostles, how good and blessed it was for them to participate in the work of Christ.
And how we realize the life of blessing for ourselves when we find ourselves faithfully executing on the mission that Jesus has entrusted to our care.
My friends, that's what the life of the Eucharist is all about.
Here on this very altar, bread and wine is transformed into the Body and Blood of our risen Lord and it's not for nothing.
Because – yes - we have hunger which is why we flock to this table of plenty.
But being satisfied by Jesus, by receiving the spiritual food that nourishes and sustains us in our Christian life, we are called to meet the needs of the world. We are called with our lives to satisfy the hunger of the world.
This presses in upon us just like the crowd of five thousand would have pressed in on the apostles.
We can think of those words of Jesus today as he stands to give himself to his Father and then also to us in this sacrifice.
“This is my Body which will be given out for you.” Jesus calls us to participate in that sacrifice.
When I say those words I think, “yes, this is my body which will be given up for you, too.
“Yes this is my body which will be given up for you.”
We are to give up in worship of God and in service of our fellow man. We are to give up our bodies too, our whole lives, our whole heart in service of God.
And when we do as I said, our hunger is satisfied as we satisfy the hunger of the world.