Jesus is not safe. And he doesn't want us to stay safe.
Following Christ is dangerous business.
He wants us to die to ourselves and share our lives!
All Eucharistic celebration – and adoration – must lead to service.
In today’s Gospel the disciples are genuinely concerned for the 5000 men – not including women and children – who are likely very hungry and in the middle of nowhere. The disciples want Jesus to dismiss the crowds so they can go to the nearest village and buy food, but Jesus insists “Give them food yourselves.” Really? They are in the middle of nowhere. It’s as if Jesus had intentionally gathered together people from all walks of life and then led them out into this wilderness.
In John’s account it is Andrew who brings a young boy to Jesus who is willing to share his five barely barley loaves and two skinny scrawny sardines, but what good are these for so many? But never let anyone ridicule you for your five loaves and two fish. It is enough.
Jesus immediately tells the disciples to have the people sit down in groups of fifty. Groups of fifty. Sounds like he was encouraging community.
Then Jesus miraculously multiplies the loaves and fish to provide a veritable banquet for the people out of seemingly nothing – and in the middle of nowhere. Five loaves and two fish? Really? Yes, the Lord can take our small offering and multiply it beyond our imaginings. Never let anyone ridicule you for your five loaves and two fish. It is enough. The Lord will provide good and plenty.
This wonderful feast day gives us an opportunity to ponder the gift of the Eucharist. This sacrificial meal of thanksgiving is THE Sacrifice which sums up all of the sacrifices ever offered. And in Jesus’ one act, He restores us to right relationship with God, and be the Prince of Peace and bring us peace.
Jesus is the king of Israel as he gathers His people and then feeds them, tends them as a shepherd. Can we imagine the table fellowship! Jesus welcomes all! He literally goes out to the hedgerows and the margins of society to feed us! This is Christ the King feeding the gathered people. We commune with the priest-king and enter into sacrifice together with each other.
The Eucharist is what makes the Church the Church. The Church comes from the Eucharist. We long for the bread of life. We long for the wine of compassion. We all long for inclusion, for belonging, for unity, for meaning, for love.
It is right and just to give God thanks and praise ; by Participating in the Mass, we too offer our five barely barley loaves and two skinny scrawny sardine fish upon the paten, but Christ will multiply our meager offering beyond our imaginings.
There can be a tendency for some people to want a very clean and tidy Catholic, Christian faith where it is just me and Jesus in a nice adoration chapel with Jesus safe within the tabernacle or monstrance.
But Jesus is not safe. And he doesn't want us to stay safe. Following Christ is dangerous business. He wants us to die to ourselves and share our lives! In fact, as we go out of our way, we may well suffer, and our own body might become bloody, and thereby resemble that of our Lord Jesus. Discipleship is a fearful thing.
Please do not misunderstand me: prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is incredibly powerful; I am fortunate to have grown up with this practice. Many days after work I would walk or ride my bike to kneel in the silence before Jesus; in college many nights from 11 to 12 I kept vigil with Christ for an hour; then when my wife and I were dating we went to daily Mass and after we were married every Monday night from 7-8 pm we kept vigil with Jesus at a local adoration chapel; later when the children were young I took the 11-12 pm hour at our parish. And still now here I continue to spend time with Christ, but it can never end there. Prayer must change us.
Prayer cannot end at the tabernacle! Christ sends us out from prayer to seek our lonely neighbor, to visit those in hospital or nursing home, to reconcile with our estranged children or relatives, to feed the hungry, to comfort the sorrowful, to clothe the naked, welcome the immigrant, and visit the imprisoned.
Mother Teresa's Sisters spend an hour in adoration of the Eucharist BEFORE they spend the rest of the day walking among the poorest of the poor, seeing Christ and serving Christ in the least of these.
All Eucharistic celebration – and adoration – MUST lead to service. Jesus IS present in the Eucharist – but we must see and love Christ in the stranger, in the poor, in the least among us – and yes, even in our own family members.
So whether it is volunteering with the Vincent de Paul, or working a Soup Kitchen, tutoring a child, helping a neighbor, visiting a lonely widow – or loving your spouse or child when he or she is not particularly loveable, the Eucharist is about dying to self and rising to new life.
Pope Francis has been continually telling us through his living public witness that we must go out of our way, out of ourselves, willing to leave our self-contained, secure worlds, to venture to the margins of society, to that other part of town, in order to bring Christ to others just as Jesus went out to the crowds. The Eucharist and the Holy Spirit will give us the strength to do this. – Only then will we truly become the Body of Christ.
Yes the Holy Eucharist – the Body and Blood of Christ – is that which brings us together, and, in fact, the Eucharist forms us as The People of God. We are nourished from this altar.
And after receiving the bread of life and the chalice of salvation, we pray that we may truly become the very body and blood of Christ to the World, bringing salvation to all those around us; and may each of us pray as did Saint Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ Jesus who lives in me.”