August 3, 2014 – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Blessed Mother Teresa, one of the great examples in our time of what it is to be Catholic and what it is to be a good steward, said “Jesus has made Himself the Bread of Life to give us life. Night and day He is there for us. If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist; come back to that Adoration.” It is appropriate for us to remember that Eucharist means thanksgiving in Greek for it was Christ’s ideal sacrifice for each of us.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1336): “The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’ The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be a division. “Will you also go away?’ The Lord’s question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only He has the ‘words of eternal life’ and that to receive in faith the gift of the Eucharist is to receive the Lord Himself.”
The first reading from the prophetic Book of Isaiah, although written centuries before the birth of Christ, describes the Eucharist perfectly. “All you who are thirsty, come to the water…come receive grain and eat…I will renew with you the everlasting covenant.” God also says in this reading, “Heed me and you shall eat well.” We must listen to the Lord, and we must listen carefully. As great a gift as the Eucharist is, it is our perception and our reaction to it that makes it so incredible. It is up to us to realize the power of communion every time we receive it, and it is completely up to us to take that gift and to spread it through love and stewardship.
We are assured in the first reading that God will feed us spiritually and that there is always enough to meet our needs. St. Paul’s letter to the Romans speaks eloquently of the immeasurable nature of God’s love, how, if we are open and receptive to this endless love, nothing, absolutely nothing can keep us from union with the Lord. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Jesus was fond of teaching with parables, but He may have taught more effectively with His actions. The Gospel reading from Matthew relates one of His miracles, one of those stories with which each of us is very familiar. Chapter 14 from the Book of Matthew is replete with amazing tales. It begins, sadly, with the death of John the Baptist. Upon hearing of this, the Lord is saddened and goes off by Himself in a boat. However, a huge crowd gathers on the shore, and, moved by compassion, He begins to move among them and heal the sick. It was late in the day and the disciples were concerned about how all these people were going to eat. The miracle Jesus then performed follows exactly the message of the first two readings: that the Lord will, and can provide, and that there is always enough for everyone.
The verses in today’s Gospel are often titled “Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand.” As they are wont to do, scholars and historians have examined this, which actually states, “Those who ate were five thousand men, not counting women and children.” Some have concluded that there may have been double that number or more. Nevertheless, the point is not the number fed; the reality is that Jesus is able to feed everyone who wishes to eat of the Bread of Life. The Lord has fed literally billions through the Eucharist. The Lord has resources beyond our wildest imaginations. We must nonetheless seek those resources through Him. Practicing stewardship recognizes that, and it leads us to lives of holiness, and to the “everlasting covenant” mentioned in the first reading.