Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
During this month of August, the month of the Blessed Virgin Mary, let us ask of our good Lord to give us a true devotion to the Immaculate Heart of His Mother, Mary! This Sunday is the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time. This weekend I share with you a message regarding Jesus‟ love for us and the Eucharist. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week:
The Messianic Goods: The multiplication of the loaves. Jesus cares for His followers.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and you labor for that which does not satisfy? Hearken diligently to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in fatness. (Is. 55:2-3)
The Gospel of today‟s Holy Mass recounts how the Lord went off on a boat alone to a deserted place. (Mt. 14:13-21) But when the people found out where He was going, they followed Him on foot from their towns. Upon disembarking, He saw before Him a great multitude and He had compassion on them, and healed their sick. He cured them without being asked. After all, the fact that they had come so far bringing their sick with them was sufficient proof of a great Faith. With regard to this passage, St. Mark points out that Jesus spent a lot of time teaching this crowd because they were like a sheep without a shepherd. (Mark 6:33-44) So it grew quite late. The disciples were somewhat anxious at the thought of their being in a deserted place at such a late hour. Send the crowds away, they urged the Master, to go into the villages and buy food for themselves. Jesus surprised them with His answer: They need not go away; you give them something to eat. The Apostles obeyed. They did what they could, finding five loaves and two fishes. It is worth noting that those present included about five thousand men, besides women and children. Jesus works the miracle with a few loaves and fishes, and with the obedience of His followers.
After telling the crowd to sit down upon the grass, Jesus, taking the five loaves and the two fish… 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. The Lord takes care of His own, even in material necessities, but He counts on our cooperation, even though our contribution will be of comparatively minor importance. If you help Him, even with a trifle, as the Apostles did, He is ready to work miracles; to multiply the bread, to reform wills, to give light to the most benighted minds, to enable those who have never been upright to be so, with an extraordinary grace. All this He will do… and more, if you will help Him with what you have. (J. Escriva, The Forge, 675) Then we will better understand what St. Paul writes in today‟s Second Reading: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, no life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:35, 37-39)
Nothing can separate us from Christ, our Teacher - neither adversities in one‟s personal life (big and little failures, suffering, sickness…) nor difficulties in the apostolate (resistance by some to receiving Christ‟s teachings, hostility from an environment that flees from the Cross and all sacrifice…). In Christ we will always find our strength.
This miracle is a figure of the Holy Eucharist, in which the Lord gives Himself as food.
In the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes, Christ uses the same words and behavior as He later employs for the institution of the Eucharist. (cf. Mt. 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:25) This miracle is not only a demonstration of Divine Mercy; it is also a prefiguring of the Holy Eucharist (cf. The Navarre Bible, notes to John 6:11 and Mark 6:41), which the Lord explains in the synagogue of Capharnaum. (cf. John 6:26-59) This is the interpretation given by many Fathers of the Church. The liturgy of the Holy Mass recalls the gesture of the Lord when He lifted His eyes up to Heaven. The words of the Roman Canon are as follows: Et elevatis oculis in Caelum, ad Te Deum Patrem suum omnipotentem, and looking up to Heaven, to you, His almighty Father… We remember that miracle as we prepare for an even greater miracle, that being the changing of bread into His Body, which is to be offered as spiritual food for all mankind.
The miracle by the lakeside showed to men the power and love of Jesus. That power and love are what allow us to find the Body of Christ under the sacramental species. Down through the centuries it is the Eucharist that can feed the multitude of the faithful. As St. Thomas put it in the sequence which he composed for the Holy Mass of „Corpus Christi‟, Sumit unus, sumunt mille… Whether one receives or a thousand do, each receives the same as the other, He cannot be exhausted… This is how the miracle acquires its significance, without losing any of its reality. It is wondrous in itself, but it ends up being even more wonderful than expected. It evokes the image of the Good Shepherd who feeds His sheep. It can be seen as a foreshadowing of the new order. Enormous multitudes will come to join in the Eucharistic Feast, where they will be fed in a miraculous way with an incredibly superior food. (M. J. Indart, Jesus in His World, Barcelona, 1963)
The crowds that seek out our Lord are evidence of the strong impression His Person makes on people. Many go so far as to follow Jesus into the desert itself, quite a way from the main roads and towns. They travel without provisions. They don‟t want to lose any time in their haste to get a glimpse of the Lord. This is a good example for us whenever we face some difficulty in receiving Communion or visiting the Blessed Sacrament. To have an encounter with the Master is worth any sacrifice.
St. John reports that the multitude grew very excited as a result of the miracle. (John 6:14) If all those people became so enthusiastic and were ready to acclaim you over a piece of bread, even granting that the multiplication of loaves was a very great miracle, shouldn’t we be doing much more for all the many gifts you have granted us, and especially for giving us your very self unreservedly in the Eucharist? (J. Escriva, op. cit., 304)
In Holy Communion we receive Jesus, the Son of Mary, the One who performed that great miracle many years ago. In the Host we possess the Christ of all the mysteries of Redemption - the Christ of Mary Magdalene, of the Prodigal Son, of the Samaritan woman, the Christ resurrected from the dead, seated at the right hand of the Father… The marvellous presence of Christ in our midst should completely transform our life… He is here with us - in every city, in every town… (M. M. Philipon, The Sacraments in Christian Life) He waits for us. He misses us when we are tardy in coming.
We should look for our Lord in Communion. We should prepare for each Communion as if it were the only one of our life.
The eyes of all look to Thee, and Thou givest them their food in due season. Thou openest Thy hand, Thou satisfiest the desire of every living thing. This is today‟s Responsorial Psalm. (Ps. 144:15-16)
Jesus, really present in the Holy Eucharist, gives this Sacrament an infinite supernatural efficacy. Whenever we want to express our love for someone, we give presents, we do favors, we make ourselves available to the person in question… But we always come up against one limitation, namely, that we cannot give away our very self. Jesus Christ can do that. He gives us His very self. And we can unite ourselves to Him. We can identify ourselves with Him. And we can find Him every day in Holy Communion. He waits for us. He is there waiting for each one of us. He does not wait for us to ask for things. He cures us of our weaknesses. He protects us against danger, against temptations that would separate us from Him. He lifts up our spirits. Each Communion is a fountain of graces, new light and a new impulse that strengthens us in handling daily life with human elegance and supernatural outlook.
How much we partake of these benefits depends in good measure upon the quality of our interior dispositions. The Sacraments produce a greater effect in proportion to the good dispositions of the recipient. (St. Pius X, Decree, Sancra Tridentina Synodus, 20 December 1905) We improve our disposition, our desires for greater holiness, by going to Confession frequently. It is our love which will lead us to a greater Eucharistic piety. As St. Pope John Paul II said during his first papal journey to Spain, This love will bring you ever closer to the Lord. I ask you to make good use of the Sacrament of Confession, which leads us to the Eucharist, just as the Eucharist leads us to Confession. (John Paul II, Address, 31 October 1982) Both these Sacraments help the soul to love in a more delicate, refined and pure manner.
When the moment of receiving Communion draws near, our desires of reparation, of Faith and of Love should grow more fervent. Have you ever thought how you would prepare yourself to receive Our Lord if you could go to Communion only once in your life? We must be thankful to God that He makes it so easy for us to come to Him; but we should show our gratitude by preparing ourselves to receive Him very well. (J. Escriva, op. cit., 828) One day it will be our last time. Soon afterwards we will be meeting Jesus face to face, the Lord with whom we have been united Sacramentally. How pleased Jesus must be by our acts of Faith and Love! (From: In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez) Through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, St. Joseph, and St. Columbkill, may God grant us the grace to be devoted to the Immaculate Heart of Mary! In Christ through Mary, Fr. Kasel