BREAD TAKEN, BLEST, BROKEN AND SHARED AS ONE
Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes
17th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR B
Most of us love to eat. We eat regularly and have our favorite foods. How blessed so many of us that not only do we have a choice of food, but we have enough food. So many of God's children are hungry day after day. In fact, the 2012 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics would tell us that “there are 7 billion people in the world. With an estimated 925 million hungry people of the world, 13.1 percent or almost 1 in 7 people are hungry.” That is the reality, though may not be the case in the US as we have an abundance of food. But even with our plenty, no matter how much we eat, we always get hungry again.
Throughout the history of the church, there is a meal that has been honored as the true banquet of the Lord, the Lord's Supper. In terms of physical hunger, the small wafer and sip of wine that we share isn't anywhere near as satisfying to our human appetite as even the quickest meal at a fast-food restaurant. But we come here to this meal because we are hungry for something more, hungry for the Lord. But, how do we satisfy our “hunger” apart from eating the bread, the “Body of Christ” and drinking the wine, the “Blood of Christ?” Let us focus our attention on the four main gestures Jesus did (known to be four Eucharistic words) in the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.
“Taken.” Before the bread is eaten, it first has to be taken. It is like a phone call that once taken could change our lives as we could have been given new responsibilities. Or to put it more concretely, it is like Bishop Cordileone (now outgoing Bishop of the Diocese of Oakland) receiving a call from Rome appointing him as new Archbishop of San Francisco. He took the call and responded to it saying “Yes” to the responsibility of Archbishop.
“Blest.” He blest it in order that they may come to receive the bread worthily. Jesus took the bread and blest it. He cleansed it in His own divine way taking responsibility over those who were present to partake of the meal.
In like manner, we are called to take or receive him in the bread with true repentance for our sins, due preparation and reverence. What sort of preparations do we do upon receiving the Eucharist? How do we dispose ourselves both physically and spiritually? [A note on Eucharistic fast – to fast at least an hour before receiving the Blessed Eucharist] How do we take the bread we receive in the Eucharist? Is it a “blessing” or maybe a “curse” for us?
“Broken.” The bread is broken into pieces in order that everyone may be able to eat, be full and be able to share. In other words, to break it in order that it may be offered along with Jesus’ very self.
In the very Christian sense of the word, it is for us to offer our lives on the altar along with Jesus’ sacrifice. How? By asking pardon for our sins, expressing gratitude for the blessings we have received and presenting our needs and petitions on the altar. Are we ready to be broken and to become part of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice of himself in the bread that he shares to us in the Eucharist?
A young man saw an elderly couple sitting down to lunch at McDonald’s. He noticed that they had ordered one meal, and an extra cup. As he watched, the gentleman carefully divided the hamburger in half, counted out the fries, one for him, one for her, until each had half of them. Then he poured half of the soft drink into the extra cup and set that in front of his wife. The old man then began to eat, and his wife sat watching, with her hands folded in her lap. The young man decided to ask if they would allow him to purchase another meal for them so that they didn’t have to split theirs. The old gentleman said, “Oh no. We’ve been married for 50 years, and everything has always been and will always be shared 50/50.” The young man then asked the wife if she was not going to eat, and she replied, “Of course, I will. But, it’s his turn with the teeth.”
“Shared.” The bread is shared to others in order that they too may come to experience Christ Himself, who offered himself not just as bread, but as a Person one like His Father.
In this sense, we are called to become Christ-bearers and conveyers of the Eucharist. By receiving Holy Communion we become Christ-bearers as Mary was, with the duty of conveying Christ to others at home and in the workplace, through love, mercy, forgiveness and humble and sacrificial service.
From her personal experience, Mother Teresa relates a story showing how the poor are more generous than the rich because they have experienced hunger and poverty. Learning of a poor Hindu family in Calcutta who had been starving for many days, Mother Teresa visited them and brought a big parcel of rice to the mother. She was surprised to see how the mother divided the rice into two equal portions and went out with one bundle to give it to her Moslem neighbor. When she returned, Mother Teresa asked her why she had done such a generous deed (given that they also don’t have much). The woman replied, “My family can manage with half the rice in this bag. My neighbor’s family has several children and they are also starving.” Today’s Gospel tells the story of a small boy who showed this same kind of generosity. By sharing his small lunch (which consisted of 5 barley loaves and 2 dried fish), he became the instrument in Jesus’ working of a miracle that fed thousands.
Ultimately, Jesus "takes, blesses, breaks and shares" not only loaves and fishes in the event of the miracle, but his very self, challenging us to do the same with our lives, in order that we may become his "Real Presence" in the world. Just as the bread and wine is "taken, blessed, broken and shared," at Mass, so are we. It doesn’t matter whether there’s only five loaves of bread and two fishes or less for as long as we fulfill our own task of being taken, blessed, broken and shared, we can become a wonderful miracle there is!
Final Note: Kerby Anderson, president of Probe Ministries International underlines 3 causes of hunger. Out of the three, I was struck by the third cause: PRIORITIES (POVERTY AND POPULATION among two others)
A third reason for world hunger is priorities. Those of us who live in an industrialized society place a high priority on comfort and convenience. Our standard of living places a significant strain on the world economy.
Certainly this is something Christians must consider in terms of their own economic lifestyle. At a time when people are not getting enough to eat, we are living a lifestyle far beyond what many could even imagine.
We have a great challenge before us. We must not only consider what we can do to feed the hungry, but we must also consider what we should do to limit our indulgent lifestyle.
True indeed, but how should we do this? Simply by following Jesus’ example of taking, blessing, breaking, and sharing the BREAD of LIFE in order that everyone may have their fill of both physical and spiritual food that Christ Himself will provide us.
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