The prophet Isaiah, the Psalmist and the Gospel of Matthew all proclaim how the Lord feeds us with wholesome abundance. May our feasting – at our tables at home and the Table of the Lord – nourish us in this life in preparation for the Great Feast in Heaven.
The Gospel this week offers a familiar story that many of us have heard on numerous occasions. The miracle of the fishes and loaves offers a rich opportunity to reflect on a variety of themes that are central to the Christian disciple.
In order to do this, let’s take a step-by-step review of this story:
1. Jesus hears of the death of John the Baptist 2. Jesus seeks solitude in a deserted place 3. The crowds eagerly seek Jesus 4. Jesus sees the crowds and pities them 5. Jesus cures their sick 6. The people are hungry and far from home 7. The disciples tell Jesus to send the people away 8. Jesus tells the disciples to feed the people 9. The disciples say there is only 5 loaves & 2 fish 10. Jesus TAKES, BLESSES, BREAKS, GIVES 11. There is an abundance (leftovers of food!)
Here are a few observations:
1. Jesus’ heart is moved with sorrow for the death of John the Baptist. Perhaps he is considering his own approaching death, and he seeks some quiet personal time. Yet when the crowds crush in upon him, the Lord pities and responds to their needs. It is the generous and loving heart of Jesus that is worthy of reflection and observation here.
2. Jesus observes that many people are sick, and the Lord takes the time to heal their bodies.
3. The people have been with Jesus all day. They are far from home, and they have not eaten. While the disciples want the Lord to send them away, Jesus commands them to feed the people; when they use the limited food supply as their excuse, Jesus takes, blesses, breaks, and gives them an abundance. Thus, Jesus cares for the people – body and soul in a way that is truly overwhelming.
4. The same verbs of taking, blessing, breaking, and giving are used to describe the Lord at the Last Supper. This feeding miracle is just another form of Eucharist!
Jesus moves beyond his own personal concerns to love, respond, and serve others. The Lord cares for both the physical and spiritual needs of people in a generous way. May we follow his example in our own lives of service and ministry.
The celebration of the Eucharist is the highest form of Christian prayer. Jesus defines the bread and wine and his body and blood, and then he commands his disciples to “take and eat…take and drink” in his memory. Besides the readings we will hear at Mass, some other crucial Scripture passages testify to this essential element of our faith:
Luke 22: 14-23
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
What happens when we go to Mass? What do we encounter when we open our hearts to this hour long prayer? Here are few key points:
We hear a good selection of the Word of God
We receive Jesus Christ in Holy Communion
We unite in prayer with others
We pray for the sick, those who have died, and our special needs
We have a few moments for silence and reflection
Of course in our fast paced, entertain-me-so-I-won’t-be-bored world, we can look upon the central prayer of the Church and wonder why the Mass doesn’t “get modern.” The reality is that the Mass continues to adapt to the culture and times. The real question is this: Do I come to the Mass with an open heart to encounter the Lord and his disciples? Do I come with a focus to offer my life to be renewed by Christ?
Here are seven ideas for getting the most out of Mass:
Read the Sunday Scriptures ahead of time. This way you can get a sense of the key themes and be better prepared to follow the homily.
Come prepared to pray. This seems obvious, but many people often don’t come with their “list” of intentions and needs. Take some time before Mass to consider who or what in your life could use a prayer.
Pray before Mass starts. Sometimes we can rush into church, drop into a pew, and try to follow along with the Mass. Give yourself 5-10 minutes to reflect on the past week, look to the next, and ask the Lord for guidance and strength. It really helps!
Receive Holy Communion with heightened awareness. This is Jesus Christ who offered his life on a Cross for the salvation of our souls. It’s his blood that was poured out for the forgiveness of our sins. Make that moment of receiving Him intentional and reverent; let the “Amen” come from your heart!
Pray after receiving Holy Communion. You have just received the Lord Jesus into your body – you have become a living Tabernacle – there is no better time to offer the deepest, most important issues on your plate to the one who loves you.
Consider one takeaway that you experienced from every Mass. Name one thing (just one is perfectly fine) that struck you at every Mass. Perhaps it was a point in the homily, a line from a hymn, someone you prayed for, something you experienced, or an insight that came to you in silence. By naming one takeaway you actively participate in the prayer and engage your faith as you live your life.
Use a resource to get the most out of Mass. Some people like a devotional, missal, or prayer booklet – something that can be used both in and out of church. Others prefer an online resource where they can follow up at a website, video, or podcast. Still others favor their smartphones for handheld resources that they can take anywhere. Find what works for you…the only true measure is the resource that helps you engage your faith each and every day.
Jesus Christ gives us the gift of himself in every Mass. He defines what we do and commanded us to do it. Every time we come to Mass we encounter the Lord and allow his grace to transform our lives. May his Body strengthen our bodies; may his Blood flow through our veins.
After all, as his disciples, we have his work to do.
Fr. Andrew and Dan Tracy recall some powerful memories that took place over twenty years ago, showing how our connections in sacred and secular ways can have profound and lasting effects in our Catholic faith…especially when we speak about the crucial role of Mass and receiving the Eucharist.
On the road to Emmaus two disciples – disappointed and downcast – are leaving Jerusalem. Their encounter with Christ through the Scriptures and the Eucharist transforms their hearts and renews their faith.
The readings this week are filled with power and zeal. The resurrection of Jesus inspires the early Church, and their encounter with the Risen Lord in the breaking of the bread testifies to the enduring grace we receive every time we come to Mass. Take a look:
1st Reading – Peter boldly proclaims the Good News to the crowd
Psalm – “Lord, you will show us the path of life.”
2nd Reading – the resurrection renews us to live by God’s grace
Gospel – Jesus explains the Scriptures and is made known in the breaking of the bread
A pattern emerges: an encounter with the Risen Lord changes our lives in dynamic and life-giving ways. Peter is no longer timid or afraid to stand up for Christ; Christians conduct themselves with faith and hope; the disciples have their minds opened and hearts burning as Jesus is present to them in the breaking of the bread.
It is the depth of this change that bears close inspection. These people are renewed and empowered with a strength and conviction that can inspire us today. They burn with the flame of faith, and through the example and witness of their lives the Gospel message will spread like wildfire.
This is our task today. As we look to the early Church, we acknowledge that NOTHING was easy for them. Their trust in God put them in the path of tremendous obstacles, trials and persecutions. And yet with God’s grace their triumphed…and we can, too.
I’d like to suggest a simple two-step process:
Where do we encounter the Lord in our lives today?
How can we invite others to experience what gives us life?
The first question requires us to pause and reflect on the prayers, sacraments, fellowship and other life-giving activities that renew our hearts. The second question challenges us to step out in faith and invite those we know and love to encounter the Risen Lord. May the faith of the early Church inspire us to proclaim the Good News with passion and joy!
On Holy Thursday we claim the precious treasure of Holy Communion whereby we receive the Lord – body and blood, soul and divinity – for the strength we need to carry out our tasks of service here on earth.
The multiplication of the fishes and loaves in the Gospel of Mark uses the same language that we use to describe what happens at Mass when the priest takes the bread and wine. May we be nourished every time we go to pray, so that we can nourish others with the gift of our lives.