Luke 9: 11-17
11 When they heard where Jesus was, the crowds followed him. So, after welcoming them, Jesus began to tell them about the world of God, and he was curing people who needed healing. Now the day had begun to decline. After approaching Jesus, the Twelve said to him, "Send the crowd to go to the villages all around and stop at the farms to find food, because we are here in a deserted place. 13 Jesus answered them, "Give them something to eat." They replied: "We have no more than five loaves and two fish, should we then go and buy food for all these people?" 14 Indeed, there were about five thousand people. Jesus said to his disciples, "Let them sit down in groups of about fifty. 15 And they did so, and all lay down. 16 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, and raising is eyes to heaven, Jesus pronounced the blessing upon them, and broke them, and began to give them to the disciples to offer to the people. 17 And they ate, and were all filled, and they took away the pieces that they had in excess, twelve baskets.
Blood is the source of life that must be given to stay alive
Gospel commentary - Homily
Are you afraid of blood? There are events that constantly remind us of the reality of blood. I experienced it recently. It all started with a sensitive, stiff leg, it continued through the swollen, painful upper leg, to a state of general weakness that brought me to the hospital emergency room. Diagnosis: deep vein thrombosis, phlebitis and, to top it off, pulmonary embolism that impacted both lungs. It is the reality of a blood too thick which developed big clots and dragged me towards a certain death. The path of healing was well established: it was necessary to make this blood more liquid by using anticoagulants, first by dalteparin sodium injections and then by warfarin tablets. And the adjustment of doses involved blood tests, first daily, then slightly more spaced, but regular. Whether one is afraid of blood or not, it is an intrinsic part of our life, and therefore of us, and we must face it.
To look at the blood in the face is what the liturgy of this day proposes with the celebration of the Body and the Blood of Christ. And to guide this celebration, we remember the story commonly called "the miraculous feeding". We can easily miss the message of this story by saying too quickly, "Oh yes! It is Jesus who makes another extraordinary miracle by expanding the loaves to feed thousands of people". Let's take a closer look at this story.
The first action when reading a story is to look at its context. Now, Jesus has just sent the Twelve on a mission to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal. Our scene begins when the Twelve come back from mission and Jesus wants to go with them to Bethsaida. When you hear the word "retirement", do not imagine a time of rest, but rather expect a time of intimacy and training. Because what will follow will offer Jesus the opportunity to show these disciples what being a pastor and what mission are all about. Before going into detail, let's go a few verses further and consider the scene following the gesture of Jesus feeding the crowd. This is called Peter's profession of faith, which proclaims that Jesus is the Christ of God and is followed by Jesus' announcement of his upcoming death. Luke already places us after Easter, first with this picture of Jesus who does not need any more to be informed of the state of the provisions, then with this proclamation of faith which will not really take place with all his fullness after the resurrection of Jesus. Moreover, two themes will dominate his Gospel later on, the upcoming death of Jesus and the preparation of the disciples for their role.
What does this context tell us? The focus is on the disciples, their role, their mission, and therefore us. This is the setting with which we must reread the story of the miraculous feeding.
Jesus begins by speaking to the crowds of the Kingdom of God and restoring health to the people who needed it. This is exactly the mission he had entrusted to the disciples. He gives here the example of what they will have to do. When the disciples point out in a very pastoral way that it is time to let people go to find food and shelter in the neighborhood because of the late hour, what does Jesus tell them? "It's up to you to feed them". The disciples will be responsible for organizing the crowd in groups to form various communities. And after Jesus had pronounced the blessing upon the bread and shared it, they are the ones who will give bread and fish to people. The story of the miraculous feeding is a story about the role and mission of the disciple of Jesus, and therefore a story about us. It is not even a miracle story, since three basic elements of a miracle story are missing: an unhappy petitioner who asks to do something for him, the expression of the applicant's faith, and finally the astonishment or wonder at the end of Jesus' action. You will seek in vain the wonder in our scene. Because this one speaks about us. When the disciples object to Jesus asking them to feed the crowds, "We have only five loaves", it is we who say, "What can I do in the face of all these diseases, all these wars, all these needs in the world? I only have two hands and two legs".
Of course, by themselves, the disciples could not have achieved what Jesus asked of them. But what exactly the latter does? Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he raised his eyes to heaven, pronounced the blessing upon them, broke them. What does it mean to bless? In the Jewish world, it is usually said, "Blessed be God". The words of Jesus therefore say that bread and fish, and through them all matter, are holy and are the presence of God. What does breaking up mean? To break is to share. The existence of bread, fish and all the material is first of all to be shared before sustenance. As disciples of Jesus, it is our duty to believe with deep faith that this matter in which we are immersed is holy, it is a place of presence of God and encounter with the risen Jesus. It has been received, and as it has been received, it must be shared. With this faith, yes truly, we can nourish the universe and heal a multitude of wounds.
When we celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ, we proclaim: Matter is holy. It is unfortunate that on this occasion some restrict their imagination to this little white host in a highly pious atmosphere, far away from real life. On the contrary, it is time to look at the body, our body, the body of the Jew Jesus of Nazareth, and say: bless you be. This body is good, the sensuality is good, the tenderness is good. Of course, all this can be distorted. Pornography exists. Gluttony exists, and here we could say that the body is an obstacle. But we could not talk about pornography or gluttony if we were not first aware that the body is healthy and that it is a place of sharing. The blood is holy because it is an element of the body. This is all that the Eucharist symbolizes.
Let's not be afraid to look at our bodies and our blood in the face. For if we dare not look at them, whatever their state, we will not be able to find the very mystery of God, and the face he left us in Jesus. Therefore, impossible to be a disciple.
-André Gilbert, Gatineau, May 2013