Homily: The Bread of Life
When I think of the Feast of Corpus Christi, I remember the Eucharistic processions of my childhood. As young first communicants, we marched in our communion suits and dresses in a solemn procession around the inside of the church honoring the Holy Eucharist, and spent time before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer. I have seen extraordinary processions on this feast in other parts of the world.
One of the most memorable is still celebrated each year in Tarentum at Holy Martyrs church. The Belgian immigrants who settled there brought a marvelous tradition and skill with them of making sacred ‘sawdust paintings’ on the sidewalks all around the parish church. No one walks on them untiI the solemn Eucharistic procession takes place. They process over the paintings and Benediction is celebrated at an outdoor altar.
I also remember the International Eucharistic Congress, held in Philadelphia, in 1976, the Bi-centennial year. It brought together participants and speakers who were extraordinary advocates of the poor: Mother Teresa of Calcutta; Father Pedro Arrupe, superior genera of the Jesuit order; Brazilian Bishop Dom Helder Camara; and Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. The theme of the Congress was: ‘The Hungers of the Human Family’.
Fr. Arrupe said, “When people are hungry anywhere in the world, the Eucharist is incomplete.” Mother Theresa said, Jesus dwells in the disguises of the faces of the poor. “To turn our backs on them is to turn our back on Jesus”. Bishop Camara (famous for saying: “When I go to the barrio and serve the poor, they say I am a saint; when I ask ‘Why are there so many poor?’ they say I am a Communist.”) pleaded with his U.S. listeners to stand up for the rights of the very poor in Latin America, even if it meant criticizing the foreign policy stances of our own government. Dorothy Day said: “Our Creator gave us life and the Eucharist to sustain our life. But we have in the world instruments of death of inconceivable magnitude.” She reminded us that we must seek forgiveness for what we have done that is wrong and others have done in our name before receiving the Eucharist worthily.
That Eucharistic Congress nourished in me for many years the connection between the Eucharist and the love of Jesus for his people – His complete, gift of Himself for all.
© Andy Alexander, S.J. Creighton University
Today’s Gospel passage is Luke’s version of Jesus’ miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes. That this is one of the most significant miracles of Jesus is evident from the fact that it appears in all four Gospels. The scenario is very familiar to us all: there is a large, hungry crowd; the disciples bring this to the attention of Jesus; he instructs them, almost casually, to provide food for them themselves. The disciples protest that this is clearly impossible since they have scarcely enough for themselves.
But, in spite of their reservations, they obey Jesus when, having blest the loaves and fishes, he asks them to distribute them to the hungry crowd. To their total amazement, there is not only enough for all those present, but twelve basketsful of fragments left over.
We can easily understand why the Church has chosen this gospel story for the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, since the primary theme of this feast is the nourishment that Jesus offers us in the Blessed Sacrament. We are now the hungry multitude and we’re reminded that Jesus offers us a superabundant nourishment that can fully satisfy our needs. This is so because the food he offers is his own Body and Blood.
There is obviously something miraculous about the way in which Jesus solves the problem of the hungry multitude. We should admire that and see it as a sign of the concern and generosity of Jesus. But we should also remember that all the miracles of Jesus’ early ministry were intended to show that he was truly sent by God and that his message could be trusted. These miracles do not constitute salvation. After all, those Jesus fed or cured all got hungry or sick again and died.
There is only one miracle that has a lasting effect on our eternal salvation; it’s the dying and rising of Jesus. And in the same way, when we die a bit in our love for others, we sow the seeds of resurrection. We really begin to live the meaning of the Eucharist. The results will be nothing less than miraculous.
As we try to live the meaning of the Eucharist, we can readily identify with the disciples as we face overwhelming problems in our own world. There is so much violence and injustice, so much war and crime and hunger, that we often feel paralyzed by the enormity of the challenge. Like the disciples, we feel that we have meager resources for dealing with these problems.
Nonetheless, Jesus tells us also to take what little we have and to do what we can with it. There is an implied promise that God will join us and turn our own “five loaves and two fishes” into food for the multitude…with much left over.
There is also a strong hint here that we will find a basis for such confidence in the Eucharist. Those of us who share in this divine meal should not only feel wonderfully nourished ourselves, but also feel empowered to share our good fortune with all the hungry people whom we meet. No matter how poor we think we are, we become rich, for ourselves and for others, when we receive the boundless gift of God’s love in the Eucharistic banquet.
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.
When the disciples came to Jesus with the request to dismiss the people to go find food, Jesus challenged them with the question: “Why do you not give them something to eat yourselves?”
That question should haunt us today.
More than enough food is grown to feed everyone on this planet. “Why do you not give them something to eat yourselves?”
More than 60,000 people will die of hunger on this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. Two-thirds of them will be children.
Nearly one in five people worldwide is chronically malnourished, too hungry to lead a productive, active life.
One-third of the world’s children are significantly underweight for their age.
The amount of money the world spends on weapons in one minute could feed 2,000 malnourished children for a year. “Why do you not give them something to eat yourselves?”
Jesus is our ‘Living Bread’. It is his obvious intention that we be well fed. The Eucharist, a great gift from the same God that sent the manna in the desert, should strengthen the determination of both the hungry and the satisfied to do what it takes to eliminate hunger.
© Gerald Darring