St. John, Chapter 6
Today begins the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 6, the great Eucharistic teaching of Jesus Christ. It is impossible to read this chapter carefully and not be Catholic. Today Jesus feeds 5000 men with five loaves and two fish. Next Sunday he declares himself to be the bread of life. August 12 he will reveal that “the bread that he will give is his flesh for the life of the world. On August 19 Jesus will say five times that “unless a man eat my flesh and drink my blood, he has no life in him, but if he eats my flesh, he will never die;” and finally, on August 26 Jesus will allow most of his disciples to leave him over his insistence on the doctrine of the Eucharist. How many disciples have left his company over this very teaching throughout the centuries? How many find this teaching “too hard to accept,” and so reject the Catholic Church, and reject Christ’s sacraments? And yet the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar is our very life, our only hope for eternal life.
In a few days I will be leaving this community after 12 years with you. If I have done nothing else, I hope I have been able to provide you with the Holy Eucharist, the one thing necessary for our salvation. The Eucharist, however, will not save us, if we don’t receive it in faith. Jesus will not save us, if we don’t surrender to him in faith. I hope that over the last 12 years, I have been able to walk with you a little farther on the lifelong journey of true faith. I hope that together we have been able to study the Scriptures, and so been able to receive the Sacred Eucharist in purity and faith. That is the only real desire of every priest: the sanctification of his people through Word and Sacrament.
Stewardship: Five Loaves and Two Fish
In today’s Gospel, 5000 hungry men, not counting women and children, crowd near to Jesus. Where to get food for all these people? A boy has brought along five loaves and two fish—just enough for his family. Little boy, will you entrust your supper to Jesus, so that he can do a miracle? The boy knows that the food he has is from God anyway, so he gives it back to God: “Stewardship.” He trusts Jesus to provide. And this boy goes down in history as the “efficient cause,” God’s chosen instrument, for the great miracle of the multiplication of loaves. I would like to know your name, little boy. Thank you for offering what you had to God.
The same happens at every Mass. A little boy, or girl, brings up a little bread to the priest. Someone else brings up a flask of wine. We also give a little bit of our financial blessings at the offertory. And hopefully we give this little bit with trust and joy. Let me entrust this to God, that he may multiply it. And from the little bit that we give, God gives us the body, blood, soul, and divinity of His Son. He gives us the means of eternal life, at every Mass.
For what am I grateful as I leave this parish? Most of all, I am grateful for the Mass, our supreme act of thanksgiving. It is only a small thing that we do—giving an hour or two of our time each week, standing with the Lord as he dies for us at Calvary. But in this parish, we do it with great love. I can see it on the faces of the altar servers, in the tenderness with which folks receive Holy Communion, in peoples’ rapt attention during the Scriptures and the Consecration. I can see it in the folks who prepare for the Mass, and sing the Mass, who read the Scriptures at Mass, those who come day and night to our adoration chapel, and to confession, and in those who feed the poor, who teach our children the Gospel, and who give themselves in 95 different apostolates at this parish. Let us “live in a manner worthy of the call we have received,” as St. Paul says in our second reading: with all humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another, striving to preserve unity. Not big things; just small things done with great love.
I leave you in the hands of our Lady, where I began 12 years ago. The first act I did as your new pastor was to consecrate this parish to Our Blessed Mother. She will teach us the way of humility and gentleness. Let us turn to her in every difficult moment, and she will show us her Son, Jesus Christ.