A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew..
When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist,
he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.
The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late;
dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages
and buy food for themselves.”
He said to them, “There is no need for them to go away;
give them some food yourselves.”
But they said to him,
“Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”
Then he said, “Bring them here to me,”
and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied,
and they picked up the fragments left over–
twelve wicker baskets full.
Those who ate were about five thousand men,
not counting women and children.
Good News Reflection:
In our Gospel reading today, we see the desert-tired Israelites complaining: “We sure wish we could have meat for a change! We never get anything but this boring manna.” Gone was their awe and wonder about the miraculous food that came straight from heaven to nourish them daily.
Miracles don’t seem miraculous when they’re commonplace, do they?
We have at every Mass a miraculous food that comes straight from heaven to nourish us. By divine intervention, Jesus Christ is fully present, body and soul — his humanity and his divinity — looking like simple bread and wine. In the Eucharist, he feeds us with his total self so that our own body and soul are nourished while we journey through the desert of life’s difficulties.
Sadly, the Eucharist can be so commonplace that it’s easy to lose the awe and wonder of what really happens at Mass. Why else would we complain that God is not doing enough to heal us or deliver us from hardships or give us whatever we’re lacking?
When Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish in today’s Gospel reading, he gave the people a foretaste of the nourishment he would provide through the Eucharist. That meal took care of their physical hunger, and they had lots of leftovers as proof that God doesn’t provide only what we need, but so much more, too.
Many saints throughout the centuries have lived for many years while eating nothing but the Eucharist. They are evidence that Christ’s presence in the consecrated bread truly does feed our bodies, not just our souls. How much are you fed by the Eucharist?
The Eucharist nourishes us in every way that we need to be fed if we participate in it fully. Minimal, half-hearted involvement in the Mass prevents us from participating fully in all the benefits of the Eucharist. Every prayer, the songs, the readings, and the communal experience of worship all work together to make the Eucharistic experience complete.
Full participation means that when we consume Jesus, he consumes us. We become more like him. Our holiness, which is already in us thanks to the Holy Spirit we received at baptism, is released. When the minister of the Eucharist proclaims to us, “This is the body (or the blood) of Christ,” our “amen” means we’re agreeing with the life-changing presence of Jesus. We’re agreeing to be changed!
The biggest miracle is not the bread and wine being changed into Christ. That only requires a priest ordained in the lineage of the Apostles, some unleavened bread, and certain prayers and rituals. It’s more miraculous for us to be changed into Christ-like Christians, which requires our free will and full participation.
Experiencing awe and wonder over the miracle of the Eucharist is not just about appreciating what happens in Mass. It’s also about appreciating and submitting ourselves to God’s power to transform us into holier people.
To learn more, use my 5-part study guide of ECCLESIA DE EUCHARISTIA, an Encyclical Letter of Pope Saint John Paul II, which covers:
• developing a personal relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist
• the Eucharist as the “source and summit of the Christian life”
• what Catholics believe and do not believe about the Eucharist
• why only Catholic priests can consecrate the Communion elements
• the role of the whole community in Holy Communion
Preview it at catholicdr.com/ebooks/Eucharistia.htm.
Thank you, Lord, because You come to me to meet my needs and to restore my life. Thank you, my God, because You become my partner to make possible those things that, for me are impossible. Amen.
© 2017 by Terry A. Modica