31 May 2013

'You give them something to eat'. Sunday Reflections, Corpus Christi

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Luke 9:11b - 17 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

Jesus welcomed the crowds and spoke to them of the kingdom of God, and cured those who had need of healing. Now the day began to wear away; and the twelve came and said to him, "Send the crowd away, to go into the villages and country round about, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a lonely place." But he said to them, "You give them something to eat." They said, "We have no more than five loaves and two fish--unless we are to go and buy food for all these people." For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, "Make them sit down in companies, about fifty each." And they did so, and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were satisfied. And they took up what was left over, twelve baskets of broken pieces. 

In countries where Corpus Christi is celebrated on Thursday 30 May the Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C is observed on 2 June. Here are the readings:

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

I'll take advantage of Pope Francis having celebrated Mass on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, known officially now in English as The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, yesterday in the plaza outside the Basilica of St John Lateran, the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. Here is the English translation of his homily, given in Italian, by Vatican Radio. I have highlighted parts that struck me. [The original Italian text is here. The translation does not seem to have been done by a native English-speaker. There is another translation on the Zenit website.]

Dear brothers and sisters,

In the Gospel we have just heard, there is an expression of Jesus that always strikes me: 
"You give them something to eat"  (Lk 9:13). Starting from this sentence, I let myself be guided by three words: discipleship, fellowship and sharing.

1. First of all: who are those to whom we are to give to eat? The answer is found at the beginning of the Gospel: it is the crowd, the multitude. Jesus is in the midst of the people: He welcomes them, talks to them, He cures them, He shows them the mercy of God. In their midst, he chooses the twelve Apostles to be with Him, and like Him, to immerse themselves in the concrete situations of the world. People follow Him, listen to Him, because Jesus speaks and acts in a new way, with the authority of someone who is authentic and consistent, who speaks and acts with truth, who gives the hope that comes from God, who is revelation of the face of a God who is love - and the people with joy, bless God.

This evening we are the crowd of [which] the Gospel [tells]: let us also strive to follow Jesus to listen to him, to enter into communion with Him in the Eucharist, to accompany Him and in order that He accompany us. Let us ask ourselves: how do I follow Jesus? Jesus speaks in silence in the Mystery of the Eucharist and every time reminds us that to follow Him means to come out of ourselves and make of our own lives, not a possession, but a gift to Him and to others.

2. Let us take a step forward: whence is born the invitation that Jesus makes to his disciples to feed the multitude themselves? It is born from two elements: first, the crowd, having followed Jesus, now finds itself in the open, away from inhabited areas, as evening falls, and then, because of the concern of the disciples, who asked Jesus to dismiss the crowd, that they might seek food and lodging in the nearby towns (cf. Lk 9:12). Faced with the neediness of the crowd, the solution of the disciples is that every man should take care of himself: “Dismiss the crowd!” [the disciples say]. How many times do we Christians have this temptation! We do not care for the needs of others, dismissing them with a pitiful, “God help you.” Jesus’ solution, on the other hand, goes in another direction, a direction that surprises the disciples: [He says], “You give them something to eat.” 

But how is it that we are to feed a multitude? “We have only five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people.” But Jesus is not discouraged. He asks the disciples to seat people in communities of fifty people, He raises his eyes to heaven, recites the blessing, breaks the loaves, and gives them to the disciples for distribution. 

It is a moment of profound communion: the crowd, whose thirst has been quenched by the word of the Lord, is now nourished by His bread of life – and they all ate their fill, the Evangelist tells us.

This evening, we too are gathered around the Lord’s table, the table of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in which He gives us once again His body, makes present the one sacrifice of the Cross. It is in listening to his Word, in nourishing ourselves with his Body and his Blood, that He makes us go from being a multitude to being a community, from [being strangers] to being [in] communion. The Eucharist is the sacrament of communion, which brings us out from individualism to live together our journey in His footsteps, our faith in Him. We ought, therefore, to ask ourselves before the Lord: How do I live the Eucharist? Do I live it anonymously or as a moment of true communion with the Lord, [and] also with many brothers and sisters who share this same table? How are our Eucharistic celebrations?

3. A final element: whence is born the multiplication of the loaves? The answer lies in the invitation of Jesus to his disciples: “You yourselves give [to them]...,” “give,” share. What do the disciples share? What little they have: five loaves and two fishes. But it is precisely those loaves and fishes that in God’s hands feed the whole crowd

And it is the disciples, bewildered by the inability of their means, by the poverty of what they have at their disposal, who invite the people to sit down, and - trusting the Word of Jesus – distribute the loaves and fishes that feed the crowd. This tells us that in the Church, but also in society, a keyword that we need not fear is “solidarity,” that is, knowing how to place what we have at God’s disposal: our humble abilities, because [it is] only in the sharing, in the giving of them, that our lives will be fecund, will bear fruit. Solidarity: a word upon which the spirit of the world looks unkindly!

Tonight, once again, the Lord distributes for us the bread which is His body, He makes a gift of Himself. We, too, are experiencing the “solidarity of God” with man, a solidarity that never runs out, a solidarity that never ceases to amaze us: God draws near to us; in the sacrifice of the Cross He lowers Himself, entering into the darkness of death in order to give us His life, which overcomes evil, selfishness, death

Jesus this evening gives Himself to us in the Eucharist, shares our same journey – indeed, He becomes food, real food that sustains our life even at times when the going is rough, when obstacles slow down our steps. The Lord in the Eucharist makes us follow His path, that of service, of sharing, of giving – and what little we have, what little we are, if shared, becomes wealth, because the power of God, which is that of love, descends into our poverty to transform it.

Let us ask ourselves this evening, adoring the Christ truly present in the Eucharist: do I let myself be transformed by Him? Do I let the Lord who gives Himself to me, guide me to come out more and more from my little fence to get out and be not afraid to give, to share, to love Him and others?

Discipleship, communion and sharing. Let us pray that participation in the Eucharist move us always to follow the Lord every day, to be instruments of communion, to share with Him and with our neighbor who we are. Then our lives will be truly fruitful. Amen.

I don't recall such an event before, where Catholics in every time zone will be making a Holy Hour of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the same time as in Rome. Though the video emphasises cathedrals and religious houses, it will also take place in many other churches and chapels, including St Mun's, Ballachulish-Glencoe, Scotland, where I am at the moment.

Ths worldwide Holy Hour is in the context of the Year of Faith.

May this hour be a moment of great grace for the Church and the world.

A booklet in Italian and Latin for the Holy Hour to be observed in St Peter's, Rome, is on the Vatican website here. The English version is here on the Year of Faith website.

Marten Pepijn, 1637 [Web Gallery of Art]

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