Saturday, July 30, 2011

On the multiplication of loaves and fish

Aside from the passion and resurrection narratives, the story of the multiplication of the loaves is the only one story that is found recorded in all the 4 gospels. This only shows the importance of the narrative to Christianity. It is important because of the Eucharistic character of the story. Clearly, the multiplication of the loaves is a Eucharistic lesson because the 4 actions which Christ performed are the 4 actions that determined the pattern of the Eucharistic Sacrifice: Jesus took bread, blessed, broke the bread and gave it to the disciples.

Thus, we see the centrality of the Eucharist in the Christian mysteries. A true Christian is a believer in the Eucharist. A true Christian cannot live without the Eucharist because the Lord Jesus himself said: “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you cannot have life in you.”

This makes me wonder how non Catholics can afford not to believe in the Eucharist even in spite of the wealth of Scriptural proof and Apostolic witness. How could they get past St. John’s chapter on the Bread of life without seeing the clear Eucharistic doctrine? I once chanced upon a non-Catholic commentary on the Bread of life chapter of John’s gospel which tried to explain that the Bread of life is actually the Word of God because Jesus, at the temptation in the desert, quoted to Satan an Old Testament passage which said: “Man does not live on bread alone but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God.” Thus, the center of non-Catholic worship is the sermon of the pastor. The center of the non-Catholic sanctuary is the pulpit.

But the story of the multiplication of the loaves proves this point wrong. If the Bread of life were simply the word of God, then the multiplication of the bread should not have taken place. After all, the Lord spent the whole day preaching and healing the people of their infirmities. But the Lord would not dismiss the crowd without feeding them. Thus, he took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to the crowd to eat. The center of worship is not the sermon but the Eucharistic sacrifice. Blessed John Paul made it clear that the proclamation of the Word of God prepares us to recognize the Lord at the breaking of the bread: “It is significant that the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, duly prepared by our Lord's words, recognized him at table through the simple gesture of the ‘breaking of bread’. When minds are enlightened and hearts are enkindled, signs begin to ‘speak’. The Eucharist unfolds in a dynamic context of signs containing a rich and luminous message. Through these signs the mystery in some way opens up before the eyes of the believer.” (JPII, Mane Nobiscum Domine, 14.) Although we all appreciate a good sermon, let us not forget that the real reason we are here is to assist at the offering of the Lord’s body and blood to the Father and to receive him through Holy Communion. The Lord himself made it clear that what he wanted to give for the life of the world is his body: “My flesh is the food that I give for the life of the world.” Let us heed the invitation of the Lord: “All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat…Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, and you shall eat well.” Having listened to the word of the Lord, assist now at the offering of the Eucharist. Eat his body and drink his blood so that you may have life in you. “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed,” says the Lord.

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