Feeding the 5,000: A Good Start!

WeeklyMessageGuest Homilist:
Fr. Tom Washburn, OFM

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 31, 2011

An older woman walked into the local church. The friendly usher greeted her at the door and helped her up the flight of steps. “Where would you like to sit?” he asked politely. ”The front row please.” she answered. ”You really don’t want to do that”, the usher said. “The pastor is really boring.” ”Do you happen to know who I am?” the woman asked. ”No.” said the usher. ”I’m the pastor’s mother,” she replied indignantly. Embarrassed, the usher asked, ”Do you know who I am?” ”No.” said the woman. To which he sighed and said, ”Good.”

“Those who ate were about five thousand” people. This story of the feeding of the 5,000 is one of the most compelling stories that we hear in the life of Jesus. It ranks right up there with the healing of lepers and the raising of Lazarus as truly miraculous moments that show with authority the true nature and identity of Jesus. I often reflect on this story in my mind’s eye trying to picture myself in the scene; to experience what it must have been like to be one of the disciples distributing the loaves and the fishes – in wonder and awe and the seemingly endless supply of food coming from those baskets. Imagine witnessing such glory?

As I have reflected on this miracle over the years, however, I have come to understand that this great event is really small potatoes in terms of manifesting God’s great power. As we reflect on what it might have been like to be present for the feeding of the 5,000; what would you think if I told you that you have been present for the feeding of the 5 million; 5 billion; 5 trillion; maybe more? The feeding of the 5,000 is not the highpoint of Jesus nourishing His holy people; instead, it is just a foretaste; a mere beginning.

On that beautiful day, on that beautiful hillside, Jesus was only getting started. You see this miracle is a sign of something to come. The feeding of the 5,000 is an event that looks to the future as it prefigures the gift of the Holy Eucharist. Just listen to the very language that Jesus used in this miracle – it is clearly Eucharistic language. “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.” This language reminds us of the words that Jesus would later proclaim at the Last Supper; and they prefigure the words that Jesus will say again today, through the ministry of my priesthood, in this Eucharist.

The key difference is that on that glorious day 2,000 years ago, Jesus said the blessing prayer and gave to the people ordinary bread to eat; which sustained them for a day. Today, Jesus again says the blessing prayer, but will give to us the Eucharistic bread from Heaven. And, my brothers and sisters, this bread will not sustain us merely for a day; this bread – the Sacred Body and Blood of Jesus Himself – will keep us going for a lifetime and beyond into eternity. In the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus fed a very large crowd miraculously for a day. In the feeding of the Holy Eucharist Jesus has continually fed a crowd that after 2,000 years must number in the billions or trillions of believers – including each and every one of us; we are all present for this miracle feeding – and Jesus isn’t done yet. Jesus promises us that this miraculous feeding will continue as long as we are on earth; and will continue on even into eternity. As He said to the disciples at the Last Supper, “I tell you, I shall never again drink wine until the day that I drink the new wine with you in the Kingdom of my Father.” Jesus is essentially telling us, “This is not the Last Supper; there will be more in the eternal life to come – and you will be there!”

So today’s Gospel is not just about a miracle in the past that calls us into awe and wonder. It is also about the gift of the Eucharist that we celebrate today in the present and it is about the promise of the Heavenly banquet in the future. All of these are divine manifestations of the great love of God for us that we heard in our other two readings today. As we heard in Isaiah, “Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare…Listen, that you may have life.” And the Letter to the Romans put it more directly, “What can separate us from the love of Christ?” Nothing! “In all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through Him who loved us.”

So, how do we respond to our participation in Christ’s love for us – especially his gift of Himself in the Holy Eucharist? First and foremost, we need to be well disposed whenever we receive His Sacred Body and Blood. We need to be aware of what’s actually happening. We are about to receive the real Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus; we are about to encounter Him sacramentally in the flesh, to be as close to Him as we can possibly get in this life. “This is the Lamb of God,” you will hear me say, “Happy are those who are called to His supper!” Happy are they! Happy are you, my brothers and sisters! The trouble is that we who are called to be happy, are often elsewhere – lost in a daze, in a daydream, perhaps on auto-pilot, receiving reflexively rather than reflectively. It happens to us all. The encounter is over before we know where we are – before we realize who He is right before us. When we get in line for communion, we are not following the person in front of us – we are following Jesus Christ! Since Jesus is good enough, kind enough, gracious enough to come to us; we must be totally present. The Real Presence isn’t just about Jesus being truly present in the Eucharist, it is also about each one of us being truly present when we receive Him.

There is a casualness in our age that can lead us to lose the sacredness of this miraculous moment. We must approach with reverence, bow in humility, put out our hands invitingly, take the Lord lovingly into our bodies and into our hearts and lives.

Jesus invites each one of us today to join Him on the hillside, on this beautiful day. We have gathered here today some simple bread and wine, but He invites us to partake in the miracle multiplication and transformation. The miracle goes on.

“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.” May we too be satisfied at this and at every Eucharistic feast.

May God give you peace.


A Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
July 31, 2011

The Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes
Only one miracle of Jesus is recorded in all four gospels–the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.


Recently I heard a homily that claimed what really happened is that bystanders took out food they were hiding under their cloaks and shared it. Jesus’ preaching inspired the melting of selfishness, and this was the true miracle according to this preacher.

My teens would call such preaching hopelessly lame!


So Central to the Gospel
The miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish is so central to the gospel message that it is one of the few miracles found in all four gospels. Indeed, two separate versions of it are found in Matthew and Mark (see Matthew 15:32-39 and Mark 8:1-10). The scenario is uncomplicated. The compassion of Jesus attracts a large crowd and soon they find themselves in a deserted place where no food is available. The disciples, who frequently seem disconcerted by Jesus’ apparent lack of foresight, point out that there was a real problem since no food was readily available for this large crowd.

Nothing is impossible to God
I am sure the disciples of Jesus thought Jesus was in over his head that day when he set out to feed a multitude of 5,000 men and perhaps a greater number of women and children with only five loaves of bread and two fish. The disciples surely said to them-selves, it can’t be done! Impossible!

Withdrew to Deserted Place
Bottom line: This week Jesus invites us to withdraw to a deserted place. You can do this by making a novena of prayer for our young people and resolving to set aside at least twenty minutes each day for prayer. You will open yourself to a power, an immensity: Jesus himself


The Bread of the Berith: The Readings of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Holy Mother Church serves up a rich fare for us in the Liturgy of the Word this week.

We begin with one of the most striking prophecies of the Book of Isaiah:

Are You and I a Hard Case for God? You Betcha!
In the Gospels Jesus says: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me, draws him.” (John 6:44) Now the Greek word here is ἑλκύσῃ (elkuse) which means “to draw or to drag” and the word always implies some sort of resistance. In a way, Jesus more than implies that all of us who do believe have offered some resistance, and the Father had to drag us along!


Should Catholics Use Biblical Resources by Non-Catholics?
Recently a prospective student of the Catholic Biblical School of Michigan (CBSM) raised this question. She noticed the inclusion of some books by Protestants on our reading list and was concerned. What follows is my personal response, which has benefited from the comments of fellow board members Fr. John Riccardo and Deacon Jack Gardner.


It all began with a cannonball: The enduring witness of St. Ignatius…
It began with a cannonball.

That is what I find, even having the heard story hundreds of times, so improbable that I feel moved to doubt it every time.


World Trade Center cross still consoles victims, priest says
The World Trade Center cross is still a “sign of comfort” to many people, says the Franciscan priest who describes himself as its “unofficial guardian.”

On Sept. 13, 2001 construction worker Frank Silecchia found a 20-foot, cross-shaped T-beam from World Trade Center 1 standing almost upright in the wreckage of World Trade Center 6.


Inside China’s Underground Churches
With China’s government stepping up its campaign to bring the country’s underground Christian churches into line, The Wall Street Journal reports on a growing group of Protestant leaders who have begun a new unified effort to push back. Here reporter Brian Spegele offers an account of his experiences attending services at two so-called “house churches,” one in wealthy Beijing and another in an impoverished corner of the Chinese countryside:


The 5 Biggest Mistakes Catholics Make (And How To Avoid Them)
There are many different approaches to living the Catholic Faith. Some people prefer more traditional devotions such as novenas and formal prayer while others choose to speak to Jesus using spontaneous prayer. Some like the Charismatic movement while others pray in silence. As long as your approach is faithful to Church teaching and brings you closer to Christ, it really is a matter of personal choice.


The Four Sections of Hell (St Thomas Aquinas)
According to Saint Thomas Aquinas (STh Supp q. 69, aa. 1-7), Hell (Latin: Infernus) is divided into four sections or abodes:

1. Gehenna. This is hell in the strict sense, or the place of punishment for the damned, both demons or humans.


What to do in Adoration
If you haven’t noticed, the traditional practice of Eucharistic Adoration is making a comeback. Many were given the impression in the seventies that adoration was passé, a relic of pre-Vatican II spirituality. But all the Popes since the Council have emphasized its importance, and in this year of the Eucharist we see more and more parishes organizing regular, even perpetual, exposition and adoration.


Intimidation is the Enemy’s Tool
I have been thinking about the priest who was assaulted in Italy and the way the Catholic left treats conservatives and traditionally minded Catholic priests and lay people.

Assaults are not only physical and launched by people who are disturbed or overmastered by passions. They are also planned, cold, systematic.


Jesus, the Temple and the Endtimes
Imagine gazing upon a building which makes up about one-fourth of an entire city and occupies an area equivalent to 35 football fields. That’s what Jewish pilgrims would see when they approached the gigantic Temple to worship the one, true God. It has been said that the Temple in Jerusalem was not just a large building in one part of the city. It’s more like “Jerusalem was a Temple with a city around it!” [1]


Cord Blood and God’s Grandeur
Since I’m about halfway through my pregnancy, it’s starting to dawn on me that I’m probably going to actually give birth at some point. This time around, I’m determined to donate my baby’s umbilical cord blood.

Cord blood is rich in stem cells, which have been used successfully for the last thirty years to treat various types of cancer, as well as blood, immune, and metabolic disorders.


St. Philip’s Tomb Found?
An archaeological team working in southwest Turkey says it has uncovered the tomb of St. Philip the Apostle.

Italian professor Francesco D’Andria, head of the excavation team at the ancient city of Hierapolis in the province of Denizli, told reporters on July 26 that experts had reached the apostle’s tomb.


The story of how 11 thousand Roman Jews were saved by Pius XII
During the Second World War, Pius XII saved 11 thousand Roman Jews. Hundreds of pages of original documents contain details of how the orders of Pius XII to hide them in Rome were implemented during the war

The Vatican secretly forged baptism certificates to allow many Jews to emigrate as Catholics. Historian Michael Hesemann has found a number of texts in the archives of St. Mary of the Soul, the German national church in Rome, which document the direct action taken by Pius XII. This constitutes a step forward in the cause of beatification and canonization


Israeli opens access to place claimed as site of Jesus’ baptism
The Israeli government is re-opening public access to a site cherished by Orthodox Christians as the place where Jesus was baptized.

Qasr al-Yahud, on the west bank of the Jordan River, had been closed after the 1967 war, when Israeli military forces mined the area to prevent invasion from Jordan. In the 1980s a narrow passage was cleared, allowing small Orthodox groups to visit the site. Now Israeli officials have completed the task of clearing the mines, and the public will be allowed to visit.

“I’m So Busy, I Met Myself Coming Back!” A Quick Reflection on the Week of A Priest
When I was a young priest I used to bring communion to an elderly woman who would often puzzle over what on earth a priest would do on days other than Sunday. “You must be rather bored” she’d often say. “Oh, not exactly!” I would retort. “Well, what can you possibly have to do after you say Mass?” “Well, of course I am here visiting you!” “Well, that just takes a few minutes” she’d say. “Well, I do have few other things to do this week:”

Why can’t young children receive Anointing of the Sick?
Nearly all priests, and even the majority of moderately catechized lay persons, know that the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick cannot be given to young children who have not yet acquired the use of reason. Such is the clear teaching of the Church: “The anointing of the sick can be administered to any member of the faithful who, having reached the use of reason, begins to be in danger of death by reason of illness or old age.” (Canon 1004.1)


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