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Friday, 27 July 2018

17th Sunday Year B 2018

Seventeenth Sunday, Year B.

(2 Kings 4:42-44; Ephesians 4:1-6; Gospel of St. John 6:1-15

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, notice first of all those words spoken by the people who witnessed and benefitted from this miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fish:

            This really is the Prophet Who is to come into the world.

How right were those words!

As you well know, this miracle foreshadowed the Eucharist, the Bread of Eternal Life, which Jesus was to give us at the Last Supper.  You will also remember, I am sure, the story of the two disciples walking together to Emmaus and sorrowing over Our Lord’s recent crucifixion, who were overtaken and joined by the Risen Lord Himself but Whom they did not recognize Personally as they walked and talked together along the way.  It was only at the evening meal -- which they had charitably invited Him to share with them – that they did eventually realize just Who their guest was as they saw Him bless and break the bread.

In both cases, today’s account of the miraculous feeding of the crowds and the Emmaus incident -- one a figure and the other a direct reminder of the Eucharist -- was Jesus recognized for Who He most truly was.  It is the same today, People of God, only through reception of the Holy Eucharist, only through the sacramental reception of the Body and Blood of Christ, can we come to a fuller recognition of the truth about Our Blessed Lord.

St. John assures us that no one knows the depths of a man save the spirit within that man, and here in the Eucharist -- as we receive and consume the Sacred Host -- Christ inundates us to the fullest extent of our individual capacity and longing to receive Him with His own most Holy Spirit, to lead and guide us, as children of Mother Church, into all truth about Him and all love for Him.

This Eucharistic receiving-in-order-to-learn is a pattern that permeates the whole of Christian life:

            Blessed are You, Lord God, for we have received …

especially in our search for truth and our understanding of love.

No man can guarantee a ‘good’, ‘influential’ thought at any time … thoughts come into our minds we know not how … we can use them, develop them, but their origin, though in us, is not under our creative control.  A Christian knows how to thank God for all such blessings, but most especially, however, does he thank God for thoughts which prove fruitful for the spiritual well-being of men and the greater glory of God.  

Today there are many, many people, scholars, and authorities writing about Jesus or about what is good, better, and best for modern society, without any acknowledgement of God, with no faith in Jesus, and who are strongly opposed to the very notion of any humble submission to His most Holy Spirit; consequently all their conclusions concerning Jesus or a better understanding of mankind’s social problems and moral dilemmas, are the work of an overwhelmingly human mental endeavour, and often enough that of an individual ego; they an ‘excogitation’, often enough sparked off by, and developed along lines determined by, scholarly controversy. The result is not something gratefully received, lovingly observed, admired and detailed, but the product of a, so-to-speak, mental vine-press, where the grapes used are the result of their own ‘up to the minute’ studies and endeavours bolstered with fruits having nothing more than some measure of present-day ‘scholarly’ interest and acceptance.

Such scholarly efforts are not timeless fruits originally, initially, received from God’s goodness to us, nor are they precious treasures, lovingly -- by the Spirit’s gift of enlightenment -- glimpsed in nature as indicative of both the unfathomable truth, and the wondrous beauty and inexhaustible variety, of God’s Being.

Authentic Christian knowledge on the other hand is precisely the fruit of a gracious gift of God, fruit matured under the sun of the Spirit’s grace.  Of course, having been gratefully received, such intellectual and spiritual awareness has to be humbly assessed, rigorously developed, and whatever else is needed for its proper and fullest human expression and understanding; but its origin is as a Godly gift, received not excogitated, a gift accepted with gratitude and faith before being lovingly and devotedly shaped to advance human fulfilment and serve the proper expression of Christian faith and devotion.

That sort of knowledge, dear People of God, is the basis  of our Catholic and Christian Tradition, and that distinctive aspect of initial-reception characterises all truly great and profitable human knowledge and awareness, which is impossible without previous listening as well as present thinking, without humble waiting as well as hard work, without aspiring to what is above and beyond self and time as well as trying to appreciate what needs to be done here on earth, in our modern society and the world around us .

Jesus in the Eucharist is the only true source of Life for us, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, that is what the bread and wine used at Holy Mass signify: our earthly life to be gradually transfigured into eternal Life by the Spirit in the sacrament being offered us. 

When Jesus was talking to the crowd after this multiplication of the loaves and fish, He urged them:

Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life.

The wondrous nature of this ‘bread enduring to eternal life’, was foreshadowed by the fact of Jesus ordering that all scraps be gathered up: none were to be left for the birds of the air and beasts of the field, let alone to just corrupt as did even the miraculous manna of old left unconsumed overnight in the desert.  Moreover, some 12 hampers’ full were gathered in total, foreshadowing such food – Jesus’ gift – to be ultimately intended for the feeding of the 12 tribes of Israel, God’s People originally Chosen for eternal life through faith and obedience to God’s guidance of Law and Love.  Yes indeed, this bread (for such it still was) of Jesus was most wonderful both in its immediate significance for those who gratefully rejoiced on receiving it, and in its future promise for those who would, subsequently, look with full trust and confidence towards Jesus to lead them through the desert of this man-made world towards the promised land to come.

Whatever promise life may hold for us, who are the People of God, whatever may be the meaning, purpose and goal, of our individual lives, for each one of us the fulfilment of it all and the consummation of all our deepest yearnings or aspirations is to be found in the Eucharist, for here we receive Him Who is Life itself.  In Him alone -- only by receiving Him into our lives -- can we become fully, truly and ultimately, ourselves, the selves we were created and destined to become not only for our personal fulfilment, but for the blessing of our world and the greater manifestation of the glory of God our Father.

The Christ we receive in Holy Communion is the crucified Christ now glorified and seated at the right hand of His Father in heaven.  He comes to us through the sacrifice of the Mass: no sacrifice no sacrament.  The Eucharistic Jesus we receive is the Christ glorified in His Self-oblation to His Father and for us: He still bears the traces of His crucifixion, of the wounds in His hands, feet and side; it is part of His glory, He does not seek to obliterate the memory of His great suffering because that suffering was the supreme expression of His sublime love for His Father and the enduring witness to His love for us.

As with all human beings, suffering will inevitably have a significant, perhaps even vital part, to play in our lives, and as disciples of Jesus we aspire to embrace those sufferings by the power of His most Holy Spirit Who wills to transform them into a Christ-like expression of our love for the Father; and also to transform us through those sufferings for future glory and fulfilment with Jesus before the Father in our heavenly home.

People of God, let us thank God with all our hearts for this supremely holy sacrifice and sacrament of Holy Mass, let us offer ourselves with Jesus and in Him to the Father, and, receiving Him in Holy Communion let us, in the power and love of His most Holy Spirit, beg that He make us like unto Himself in all things for the glory of the Father and the world’s salvation.