On the Feast of Corpus Christi we do well to mediate on the Desire of the Lord to feed his people and the shocking indifference many have to this fact. And the indifference is not just those who do not come, but it is even found in the Pews too often populated by people largely indifferent to the fact that most don’t come any more. On this feast we all do well to acknowledge the passionate concern the Lord has to feed all his people, yes even your wayward spouse or children.
Let’s consider the Gospel for today in three ways.
I. Despairing Diagnosis – Jesus has been teaching the crowds all day by the lake. At this point the Text says, As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached him and said, “Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.”
Now we can note a diagnosis, namely that the crowd is hungry. And here is a diagnosis of the human condition: we are hungry.
How are we hungry? Let us count the ways. We are a veritable sea of desires. We desire food, and drink, life, health, honor, respect, popularity, so many necessities, intimacy, family, security, goodness, beauty, truth, serenity, justice, and so much more. Yes, so many desires. We are hungry. And herein lies an insight for evangelization. For some how in all this hunger, God is calling. We are like the woman at the well who came thirsty for the world’s water and the Lord taught her it was really Him that she desired, and only He who could satisfy.
It is sad that every advertiser on Madison Avenue knows how to tap into people’s desire and draw forth loyalty and relationship, but we Christians have so little insight. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light (Lk 16:8).
And thus we are like the apostles standing around, irritated and clueless that people have needs. In effect we say, “They are needy send them away” rather than “They are needy. Wow have I got an answer for you, have I got a meal you need! You want want what is good, true and beautiful? You want what satisfies. Wow, do I have an answer for you!”
So the diagnosis is clear, the crowd is hungry, sadly though the Church in that moment was “out to lunch” and out of ideas. And this could well describe us today.
II. Deep Desire – Note that the Lord has a desire to feed these people, a deep desire. He said to them, “Give them some food yourselves.” The apostles of course can only protest impossibility. They are staring right in the face of Jesus Christ and think it impossible to feed this crowd. They see only five loaves and two fishes, but they can’t see Jesus. They don’t know Jesus! Do you see their lack of faith. How about yours?
Yes, here too is a picture of many in the Church today who think that nothing can possibly be done to turn the decline of our culture around or get people back to Church.They see only our meager five loaves and two fishes and forget that we have Jesus who is still in the miracle working business.
Jesus will not allow all their negativity and playing the poor man crush his desire. Yes, the Lord insists and has a deep desire to feed them and all this foolishness about being unable does not impress him. He says:
“Have them sit down in groups of about fifty.” They did so and made them all sit down. In other words, “Enough of all this negativity. I am in charge here,” says the Lord, “Lets get to work now.”
What is this about “groups of fifty?” It is debatable, but I would say it points to what we have come to call the “parish” system. That is, the whole world is divided up into smaller and manageable units we call , today, parishes wherein a pastor and his flock are responsible to see that all the people in that territory have been invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb. The Lord desires to feed every one in every parish and he says to me and my parish, “give them something to eat yourselves.” In other words draw them to the Eucharistic table! Draw them to me!”
Yes, the Lord has a deep desire to feed us, and others. Consider this: What loving parent who saw that their child had stopped eating would not move heaven and earth to find out why and get them back to eating saving food? Yes, they would go emergency rooms and doctors offices until their child returned to eating.
Why is this not so with our Eucharistic food? Clearly the Lord is deeply desirous of feeding us. Why aren’t we as desirous to be sure others, especially our children and family, are receiving the Lord?
To all this the Lords says, “Give them something to eat!” Yes, you, he is not talking to the person next to, it is you he addresses: “Bring them to me, give them something to eat!”
And we so easily reply, “But I have so little, just five loaves and two fishes, I am not eloquent, I have not studied the faint and I don’t have an answer to everyone’s questions!” Still the Lord says, “Give me what you have and have them sit down. Work the fifty I have assigned you and your parish.”
III. Directive for the Disciples – The text says of the disciples, They did so and made them all sit down. Then taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.
Note well that the Lord is determined to feed these people and he insists that his disciples help him to do it. They are expected to gather the faithful in groups of fifty and have them sit in groups. Then the Lord, note the Lord himself, blesses and multiplies the food. But once again, he gives it to his apostles to set before the multitude.
And this is the Church. Jesus is the Great High Priest of every Liturgy. It is He who takes our meager offerings and multiples and transubstantiates them. But he works this ministry through his priests, and in an extended sense, through the whole Church. The Lord feeds his people, but he feeds us through others. It is the role of the Church to take what Jesus sets before us and see that it is distributed to others in due season.
On the Feast of Corpus Christi we acknowledge that the Lord feeds us through his Body and Blood, but he does this through the ministry of priests and through his Church. Do we see this as central to our mission? Is the liturgy really at the heart of our parish life. Or are Liturgies rushed and hurried so we can get to the Men’s Club Meeting and make sure people aren’t late to tune into the game? What is our priority? Is it the same priority of Jesus rooted in the deep desire he has to feed his people?
Note too, they all ate and were satisfied. Does this describe liturgy at your parish? Are people being fed, and do they experience an abundance at the Lord’s Banquet? Or is Mass something to get through, something more akin to a flu shot which we hope is as quick and painless as possible?
Of course the Liturgy should be satisfying to God’s people. It should be a place and time where they are instructed in God’s word and have that work cause their hearts to catch fire with joy, inspiration and yes, conviction on the need for repentance. The Eucharist which we celebrate ought to be something the faithful are taught to expect and experience great transformation on account of. How can we fruitfully receive the Body of Christ and not experience great change and be satisfied?
Yet sadly, most people put more faith in Tylenol than the Eucharist, since, when they take Tylenol, they expect something to happen: the pain to go away, the swelling to go down, healing to be helped. Do people expect this of the Eucharist? And if not, why not?
On this Feast of Corpus Christi, please understand that the Lord want to feed you, want to feed your loved ones! And he wants to do this to save them and to satisfy them. Do you and I care about this? Is this a reality to us, or just a ritual? Why not ask the Lord this Feast day to strike deep within you the same desire he has to feed others and make of you a magnet to draw people to him. Who are the fifty the Lord has put in your charge. Listen to the Lord! Gather them and have them seated in Church next Sunday.