In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus sets out the concept of the Eucharist.
Jesus finds himself in something of a small-scale humanitarian crisis. Ever the fully human, fully divine person, full of love and empathy, he seeks to help those in need. Many people find themselves in need of sustenance, and Jesus acts.
The miracle that Jesus performs is, by any standards, a most extraordinary one. Yet, the result is quite basic in respect of human need: he gives them sustenance. The miracle that he wrought quite simply allowed people to eat.
By doing this, not only does Jesus sate their physical craving for food, but he draws a spiritual marking, a spiritual boundary into which he begins a new and lasting miracle: the miracle of the Eucharist.
Although the Eucharist was not formally instituted until the Last Supper, Christ’s actions today are a strong and powerful footprint to the Eucharist. They are, if you will, the meaning behind the Eucharist that we celebrate today, they are a flag held up towards hiw Christ wishes us to gather and share.
We would not know until later that the bread he broke and the wine he passed around the table would be his very Body and Blood. This deeper mystery is still beyond us, yet the action of sharing, born from Christ’s deep love for us, remains our own sustenance on our journey.
As we gather to share in the celebration of the Eucharist, we might place ourselves in that crowd, just as that inexplicable miracle is taking place. To think that we were hungry, yet now sated, is beyond words. That is Jesus’s love for us. At today’s Mass, he wishes to restore us and sustain us in a mysterious spiritual way, to draw us to the Father through himself.
As we place ourselves in that crowd, let us imagine what we might be thinking. For example, we might think that all we want to do is meet this man who cares for us, to know him in some way. Well, at today’s Mass, we realize how much luckier we are than that crowd, because we get to meet Jesus in the Eucharist in a sublime and extraordinary way.
This meeting, which is behind a curtain of mystery, behind the effects of bread and wine, contains something of a shadow back to the end of today’s Gospel. Jesus acts as a man of humility. He prefers the silent mountain to the kingly precincts. We see only part of a story; the rest is hidden deep within the mystery of the faith. What the crowd wanted to do was raise him on high and proclaim him as their king. Yet, he escaped and they wondered where he had gone. We have just a wafer and a cup. Yet it is our great meeting place with the divine.
We can wonder that same thing as we pray, as we receive the Eucharistic Christ. Where is he? We live in that same mystery. Yet, unlike the crowd, we have so much more that we can draw on for our faith. We have the Gospels, the fulfilment of Scripture. We have the traditions of the Church. All of these elements to our faith are sustenance, of sorts. Yet, the greatest sustenance is Jesus, our loving King, whom we receive at Mass. Let us, then, be part of that crowd today, as Christ comes to our aid and draws us, through the mystery of himself, to the Father and to our daughtership and sonship in him. Amen.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
Jesus went off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee or of Tiberias and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he gave by curing the sick. Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples. It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover.
Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?’ He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, ‘There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Make the people sit down.‘ There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted. When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, ‘Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.’ So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves. The people, seeing this sign that he had given, said, ‘This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, escaped back to the hills by himself.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.