Reading 1 Gn 14:18-20
Responsorial Psalm Ps 110:1, 2, 3, 4
Reading 2 1 Cor 11:23-26
Gospel Lk 9:11b-17
As priests are obliged to do, I spent about a day’s work reflecting on the Scriptures for today and reading Commentaries by noted scholars and Spiritual Writers. I am happy to share these insights with you.
The first comes from a book entitled LUKE FOR EVERYONE by Anglican Bishop and Scholar N. T. Wright (pp107-108)
A popular interpretation of the Miracle of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes is that it represents nothing more than an “Inspirational Moment” when , having heard Jesus preach, all the people –the 5,000 men and additional women and children—were inspired to share what food they had so that all were satisfied. “No!” writes Bishop Wright. For that version denies us the experience of the Glorious Impossible, the Cosmic God of Surprise.
In defense of his position, he reminds us that the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes occurs right after The Twelve Return from their first commission to preach the Gospel in the surrounding villages. Jesus had sent them out with the instruction not to take a money bag. Usually, traveling teachers would keep a bag for the alms they received. Jesus wanted his disciples to be totally dependent on the kindness of strangers to give them food and shelter—only the barest necessities with nothing to retain, i.e. living hand to mouth, trusting in the Holy Spirit at work in the world, trusting in Providence. The implication is that they had to relate honestly and openly with other people; they had to project their relationship with Jesus on to their relationship with others.
Today’s Gospel, the Bishop asserts, invites us to the same radical trust in God as it did the Twelve and all the others with them. For indeed, IF it was evident that the people in the crowd had food with them and could share their provisions with other (the “practical” way of interpreting “the miracle”), the Twelve would not have been put-out by Jesus’s order “to give them food yourselves.” No, there is no mention of food among the masses and the Twelve respond with a touch of irony and sarcasm: “Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.” So, like their commission to preach, Jesus, once again, invited them and US to “go into the unknown, into a world where things aren’t normally like that, and to trust God completely.”
Bishop Wright comments: “We aren’t called to believe that Jesus can, as it were, do tricks to order. He wasn’t a magician. What he did on this rare occasion was to allow God’s creative power to flow through him in a special way, as with his healings, but more so.”
I will add that this is the same Eucharistic reality are we invited to: allow God’s creative power to flow through us as Jesus imbues our body with the essence of His Body and Blood in every aspect of the Mass –people gathered, in prayer, engaging the Scriptures, contemplation, hand-shaking, Eucharistic action and real presence, and commissioning forth.
Here is an example of some of the powerful mystery the Eucharist invites us to embrace from a short story entitled “Revelation” by Catholic author Flannery O’Connor. (I found this in a book entitled A Retreat with Luke (‘s Gospel) by Barbara E. Reid, O.P. (St. Anthony Press) p. 73-74
Flannery O’Connor tells of Mrs. Ruby Turpin, a woman who prides herself on being a good woman who helps other people and is saved by Jesus. Mrs. Turpin had a clear hierarchy of the classes of people. On the bottom of the heap were (what she called—NOT ME) “colored people.” Then, just next to them, “white trash.” She and her husband, Claude, homeowners and landowners, were far above.
A disturbing incident in a doctor’s waiting room, in which Mrs. Turpin is assaulted by a “lunatic” young woman, who calls her “a wart hog from hell,” is followed by this vision: She saw herself in the mud clinging to the edge or her very own hog pen:
“Until the sun slipped finally behind the tree line, Mrs. Turpin remained there . . . she lifted her head. There was only a purple streak in the sky, cutting through a field of crimson and leading, like an extension of the highway, into the descending dusk . . .
A visionary light settled in her eyes. She saw the streak as a vast swinging bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire. Upon it a vast horde of souls were rumbling toward heaven.
There were whole companions of white-trash, clean for the first time in their lives, and bands of black (people) in white robes, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs. And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right.
She leaned forward to observe them closer. They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away. She lowered her hands and gripped the rail of the hog pen, her eyes small but fixed unblinkingly on what lay ahead. In a moment the vision faded but she remained where she was, immobile.
At length . . . (she got up and left the doctor’s office) . . . and made her slow way on the darkening path to the house. In the woods around her the invisible cricket choruses had struck up, but what she heard were the voice of the souls climbing upward into the starry field and shouting hallelujah.”
The Eucharist, this miraculous Body of Christ, CORPUS CHRISTI, is transformed Bread and Wine and transforming You and Me. In it, with it and through it, Jesus humbles us, reduces us to common humanity and, I might add, to our connection to the hogs and every other animal, the trees, the waters, the winds, the mountains and our mutual dependence on a miracle-working God.