Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
“The Body of Christ.” “Amen.”
In today’s Gospel we hear a familiar story: the miraculous feeding of five thousand people. The Twelve realize that the crowd must be hungry, but there are no means by which to feed them. Jesus, as if to test their faith, assures them that they are capable of feeding the crowd on their own. What does He mean by this? Jesus is trying to help His apostles see that the hunger of the crowd is not, truly, for food that will satisfy their stomachs, but rather their hearts. So what “food” could the apostles possibly have to offer people who hunger so? Jesus.
He is telling His apostles to give Him to the people, to serve them, to love them, to be Christ to them. To preach and to tell them all they have learned of Him. Yet the apostles have not arrived at that understanding; they see things only on the practical level, and so Jesus meets them there. They come to Him with their great need and their meager offering: enough food for perhaps a small family. And so He has His friends organize the people into cohorts of fifty, as if He were about to give rations to an army, or perhaps because He anticipated the potential chaos that would ensue without some kind of organization. Then: “…taking the five loaves and the two fish…he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples…” Later in Luke’s Gospel (22:19) when telling us of the Last Supper, we read: ‘Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.”’
Here at the Feeding of Five Thousand, Jesus foreshadows the food He truly longs to give: His own Body and Blood for our own divine life, to satisfy our deepest hunger and thirst for God. And look: there are twelve baskets of fragments left over. What does this tell us? The food that Jesus offers us in Himself is more than we can contain.
Before approaching communion the priest says, “…blessed are those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb.” Unlike the story in the Gospel, we do not receive mere fragments of bread and fish. Rather, Jesus gives us the entirety of Himself, a royal feast within each Host, in each drop of His Precious Blood. The infinity of God’s very life is contained in each, far more than we could ever need or comprehend wanting; it seems a scandalous waste to think that while we receive but a drop from the Chalice, the rest spills out around us like a burst dam! But is this not merely the lavish manner in which God loves us, a God who would, for love of us, give His only Son? And then this Son, going even further, gives us Himself as our spiritual food and drink.
“The Body of Christ.” What is the minister truly saying here or, rather, what is Christ saying to us through the minister, as though whispering from the silent Host? “I give you myself. Will you take me?” Aloud we say “Amen,” but we may as well say, “I do.” However as with any wedding feast—the Wedding Feast of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9) being no exception—there is a mutual exchange. Jesus gives us Himself; how ought we respond? What can we offer in kind but our very selves?