by Father Mike Stubbs
Whenever we receive holy Communion, we often focus upon the graces we obtain, the spiritual strength it offers us. We are getting something out of it.
At the same time, the Eucharist also always presents us with a challenge. We receive the Body of Christ. We also become part of the Body of Christ. As such, we are entrusted with a task: to continue the work of Christ in our world. We are also called to give.
This Sunday, we celebrate Corpus Christi, the feast which ponders the mystery of the Eucharist. The Gospel reading, Lk 9:11b- 17, recounts the multiplication of the loaves and the fish. That miracle in many ways anticipates the Eucharist. Just as the crowd of 5,000 was fed with the loaves and the fish, we are fed with the Body and Blood of Christ.
The Gospel reading also offers a significant insight concerning the relationship between Jesus and his disciples. It shows us how he encouraged them to take on more responsibility, to share in his ministry.
But Jesus deflects their request with a suggestion of his own: “Give them some food yourselves.” He ignores their response, which hints that Jesus’ suggestion will not work: “Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.”
Instead, Jesus directs the disciples to organize the crowd for food distribution: “Have them sit down in groups of about 50.” Notice that Jesus does not address the crowds directly himself. He works instead through the disciples.
Similarly, Jesus goes through the disciples to distribute the loaves and the fish to the crowd: “He said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.”
At every step, Jesus is working through the disciples to accomplish this miracle. They depend upon him for direction. Without him, without his divine power, everyone would have gone hungry. The disciples cannot claim credit for the miracle.
At the same time, they have acted as Jesus’ mouth and hands. They speak to the crowds on behalf of Jesus, to have them sit down in groups of about 50. They hand out the fish and the loaves, which Jesus multiplies for the people, to feed them. The disciples are Jesus’ mouth and hands, parts of the Body of Christ.
We also are disciples of Jesus. We also are part of the Body of Christ. As such, we continue his work on earth. The Eucharist that we receive reminds us of that responsibility and gives us the strength to fulfill it.
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