One line of this Gospel passage always jumps out at me. When the apostles come running to Jesus to tell him to get rid of everyone or else they will have to feed them, Jesus tells them, GIVE THEM SOME FOOD YOURSELVES! You take care of it. Why bother me?
To understand this better come with me to the beginning of the chapter. Jesus summoned them, and gave them authority to go out and teach and heal the sick. Armed with that authority from Jesus but warned that they were not to depend on anything but his authority. They do just from village to village preaching the good news and healing in every place! They came back exultant and recounted to Jesus all that they had done.
Meantime the people want to see and hear Jesus and, because of that, the apostles have no means of their own but Jesus who tweaks them a little by saying GIVE SOME FOOD YOURSELVES. He and they both know they have neither the money nor the power to do anything on their own. Just five loaves and two fish is all they can garner. And so they turn to Him because he alone can give out of his abundance. AND HE DOES. And Luke tells us: They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.
Do you think the apostles learned a lesson that day? Is it one we need to learn and re-learn from time to time? Only Jesus can satisfy the deepest desires of the human heart. Only he can offer us what we need.
But let me ask you another question from the Gospel. When Jesus multiplied the five loaves, again Luke describes just what he did: He took the five loaves, blessed them, broke them and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd! Does that remind you of anything in our lives? Yes of course... We are doing it today as we do every Sunday!
Paul describes it so well. The Lord Jesus on the night before he was handed over, took bread and, after giving thanks, broke it and said: This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me….For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes!
My dear friends, today we celebrate with joy and gratitude what Jesus did for us, what he alone could do for us, what he alone could and did give to us: His sacramental Body and Blood. On the night before he was handed over to his death, he gave us the greatest gift he could leave us. He entrusted to his first apostles the authority to “do this in memory of me”. By this His Church is fed. By this we eat and are satisfied. With this we are transformed into sharers in the divine life. We become what we eat. We become His Body on earth, His People, the sheep of his flock.
When he gave that authority to the apostles he gave the Church the sacramental life that their successors, bishops and priests, are ordained to offer in our time to you and all of us who make up the Body of Christ nourished by his sacramental Body and Blood.
In this Year of Mercy Pope Francis has given us, we are invited by him to recognize the superabundance of the Father’s love in our lives and to embrace that gift with joy and thanksgiving. Around the world and in our diocese, we encounter daily how much the Father loves us. He loves us in our joys and our sorrows. He loves us in our times of success and, even more, in our moments of failure. He never abandons us. We may stray from Him but he is always close to us, closer to us than the air we breathe.
As Pope Francis said when he announced the Jubilee of Mercy: Jesus is the face of the Father’s love. When we encounter Jesus we come into contact with the love of the Father who sent Jesus, His Son, as our brother and savior. How much have we received through Him who died and rose for us! How much does he give us the means in the Eucharist to live humbly and courageously his life of divine love in human form!
Go back to the crowds to whom Jesus spoke, the people whom he healed; the ones he alone could and did feed. There were twelve baskets left over from the abundance of his loving care of those people. Do you think he will ever stop doing that? Can you imagine him not providing all that we need, especially if our needs are great, our longing deep and our hearts so needy for his love?
I hope and pray we all enter into the spirit of the Year of Marcy, enter through the holy doors at the Cathedral, the Basilica, the Seminary and the Eastport Shrine. And, as the Pope reminds us: we are the recipients of God’s merciful love and we share in the Body and Blood of His Son. May we then be givers of that mercy to others especially those most in need and show them the face of Christ in our faces so they can experience the love of the Father whose son says: Take and eat. This is my Body for you. Take and drink, this is my blood poured out for you. Remain in me and I will remain in you. This is my command: Love one another!