29 May 2016
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Luke 9: 11-17
One time I remember visiting a bush village in Africa. It was a very poor area. It was the dry season so there was little water around. The farmers were waiting for the arrival of the rains to plant their seeds. The previous farming season had been a poor one because of the small amount of rain that fell. The amount of grain still left wasn’t much so they could only eat once daily. On the day I was there a son of one of the farmer’s arrived from the city far away where he worked and he brought with him some sacks of grain. His family was delighted. What really touched me was that the father immediately called all the other families together and he sat down and divided all the contents of the three sacks of grain equally among all of them. He did not keep them for his own family only. He shared because he cared.
It seems that the gospel story is precisely about that. We see Jesus sharing on a number of different levels because he cared for the people. He had hoped to be alone with his disciples but the crowd got to know where he was and went after him. So Jesus, instead of being annoyed and resentful, shares with them.
First of all he shared his time and himself. We are told that ‘he made the people welcome’. Then he shared with them his vision of the ’kingdom of God’. It involved caring for people on all levels of their being. Next Jesus cures those who were present and in need of healing. Then there is a sharing of food.
Jesus does all in his power to meet the basic human needs of those present. The people are touched by a wave of compassion and sharing. What results are waves of compassion and sharing among themselves. It is not farfetched that many others, in turn, must have been moved to share what food they brought for themselves.
Indeed if we fully understand the Eucharist, the celebration of it challenges us to share and care for others, for together we form the one Body of Christ. At one stage St. Paul had to remind the early Christians of the proper attitude they should have when they came together for the celebration of the Eucharist. (read 1 Cor. 17-22).
For St. Paul, the Eucharist will only be a real ‘remembrance’ of the Lord Jesus when those who partake of it are moved to share with others less fortunate. When there is enough generosity to share and care for all then the Eucharist becomes a real “memorial” of Christ whose love and compassion for the crowd make miracles of a change of heart and a transformation of the whole person possible.
Just as bread and wine which are parts of creation are transformed into the Body of Christ during the Eucharist, why cannot God change others parts of creation, you and me who are present at the celebration, into what he wants us to be? What does He want us to be? To be people more and more formed into the likeness of his Son who care and share for others once we leave the celebration of the Eucharist and go out into a world so much in need of caring and compassion.
So we go to the Eucharist to adore, praise and thank God for all his love and goodness towards ourselves. But we also go in order to be nourished from the table of the Eucharist. Having received freely from a God of sharing and caring, we are then empowered to go forth to do the same for others. Jesus took the loaves and fishes, blessed them, broke them and gave them to the disciples to distribute. He invites us to continue the work of distribution in our world today by whatever talents and gifts he has blessed us with.
Jesus was given a small amount of bread and some fish. These he took, blessed and multiplied and gave out for distribution. We may not feel that we have much to give God at the Eucharist. But whatever little we think we have but seems so small, why not offer this to God to multiply and allow him to use us to distribute to others who are more in need? When we shake ourselves out of our own self-centredness and start sharing our lives (with all our limitations) with others we will be amazed at how much we are blessed with in return.
When I first went to Nigeria I went to work with one of our SMA priests. In a rather backward area he had a cooperative organised as well as a Credit Union. He also had a clinic with some nurses from overseas who came for a few years to help the people. He also had different prayer groups etc. When I asked him what he saw his vocation as being he replied immediately. “I see myself as a sign of God’s concern for his people”. That has always remained with me. This priest, now dead, not only celebrated Eucharist daily for the people but he became, he lived Eucharist in his daily life. He shared all he could because he cared greatly. What about us who go to the Eucharist? How is it being lived out in our lives? Do we live a Eucharistic lifestyle?
“Lord Jesus, thank you for gifting us with the sacrament of your body and blood. You first of all lived it out in your daily life even to shedding the last drop of your blood. Thank you for so much love. Help us too to live Eucharist in our daily lives for the good of those you give us to share with. Amen.”
Fr Jim Kirstein SMA
For an interesting article about a Corpus Christi tradition in the Canary Islands click here.