Sometimes, it is a challenge for the priest to come up with something different when several Sundays in a row, the Gospel of John will focus, repeatedly on “I am the bread of life”. You let the Spirit guide you in one direction, then another, and still another. Next Sunday, that is today, as you may be reading this, I will not have had the opportunity to join you for Liturgy. With God’s blessing, I will have been in Holy Trinity Alabama where a couple of my former students have asked that I preach at their Final Profession as Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity.
Still, I want to share with you a couple more thoughts on the bread of life discourse with you. In the heart of it all is the reality that this discourse of the Lord in Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John is about the Eucharist. But you have to enter into the narrative slowly, and leaving behind unnecessary preconceptions.
In the context of the feeding of thousands of persons, once having blessed and broken, all are fully fed. So much so that baskets are leftover. Often enough, great and significant expositions are made of the scene. Some will emphasize that in the Gospel of John, the word “miracle” is not used, instead, the word “sign” is used. It’s an interesting observation that coincides with the specific theology of John’s Gospel. It is also interesting to note that in ancient times, it would be fairly unthinkable that someone would go off on a journey and not bring something to eat. The miracle/sign then could be understood as the conversion experience of the many. Once Jesus shared everything, then everyone else began to share, and with everyone sharing, everyone had enough to eat, etc. And, of course, this would be something for us to consider today. We throw away so much. If we would only have what we need there would be more than enough for everyone in the world.
And yet, the one point we do not want to miss is that it all has to do with divine love. The Eucharist is Christ feeding us through fellowship. Eucharist is the love we find in each other, one forever marked with the sign of the cross, God’s own great act of love. This is the love that Jesus shares with the Father and offers to his disciples. The Eucharist is an apostle maker. Receiving divine love, disciples become apostles as they do as the Lord has done. Through personal example, service, sacrifice, ministry, each shares the love of God by which all the world is fed. Divine love is our strength. Following the Gospel is not easy. The temptations to choose another path are many. Only this divine love makes it possible.
Yes, Christ is present in the tabernacle, in the monstrance and in the pyx carried to the bed of the hospital patient. But he is there because he is in the fellowship of the church, in the sharing of her sacred Scriptures. Eucharist is first a sacred event and then is a sacred presence.
Father Francisco Gómez, S.T.