Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Food for the Journey

Tomorrow's Gospel reading is a familiar scene to most anyone who is familiar with Christ and Christianity.  It is the story of Jesus feeding a massive crowd with just a few loaves and fish. It reminds me of the journey through the desert.  When the Israelites left Egypt they came with just a small bit of food.   They had no idea where to turn for sustenance.  Even though God had just parted the red sea for them, it never occurred to them that God would provide.  They began to grumble about how they left a land where they at least had food every day, even if slaves.   Then, though they did not deserve it, God provided them manna from heaven.   These miraculous flakes of food appeared in the morning and all they had to do was reach out and collect them.

Here in the Gospel we see again crowds of men and women gathered together.  They had been around him seeking healing, seeking miracles, seeking answers.  For three days now they had not eaten food and Jesus was moved with pity on them.  Even though Jesus had just healed the sick, made the lame to walk, the blind to see, and had previously performed a similar miracle of feeding a huge crowd with very small amounts of food, his very own disciples still question where they are going to find food.  Just like the Israelites in the desert, it never occurred to them that God would provide. Just like in the desert, even though these people did not deserve it, God provided them with food for the journey.

John Chapter 6 gives us a glimpse into who Jesus truly is.  We as Catholics view this as the great Eucharistic discourse.  Unlike the Israelites in the desert who were fed with a bread from heaven, and the people gathered around this mountain who were also fed with a miraculous bread, Jesus tells us in the discourse that He is the true bread from Heaven.  He is the food that we must consume.  His wording here is strong and cannot be confused.  So strong in fact that people began to ask who this man was asking them to eat his flesh and drink his blood.  He did not say, "Oh I mean it figuratively.  Don't be silly."  No, rather he reaffirms it and tells them "You must gnaw on my flesh or you have no life in you."  Many of his disciples departed.  Instead of chasing after them informing them they misunderstood, he looked at the Apostles and said "You going with them?"

Peter's response is so telling.  "To who else would we go, you have the words of eternal life."  Indeed.  Here we are on our own journey.  Advent is a reminder of what the world was like before the Messiah was born.  It is also a reminder that we too must examine ourselves daily to make sure we are bringing about God's kingdom, that like the Blessed Mother, we try to bring Christ into the world.  We do this through our actions.  We do this through our faith. We do this through the way we live and breath.  Every moment can be a prayer delivered to God.  Jesus Christ is the bread that feeds us on this journey.  In the Eucharist we receive everything we need.  We receive Christ himself, a food so powerful that we do not consume it, it begins to instead transform us.  Even though we do not deserve it, God is daily providing us with food for our journey.

When you are at Mass, picture yourself on the mountain with Christ lifting up the loaf to bless it.  As the Host is elevated by the Priest, think of what this truly means.  You are about to be fed by Christ himself, with Christ himself.  Does it occur to you that all he asks of you is possible?  That these trials and tribulations you are going through right now are nothing compared to the gift you have received?  He asks the disciples how they will feed a couple thousand people, and it does not occur to them that He can do anything.  How much more so do we fail to think in our most dire times that He can do anything?  When he asks us, "How do you think we can do this?"  Do we respond, "God there is no way it can happen, we don't have enough bread."  "We don't have enough money."  "We don't have enough faith."  "We don't have enough time."   Or do we say, "Lord I don't know you are going to manage this, but I know I will be taken care of."

Then at that moment, the first reading becomes real and God's Kingdom is made present to us:

On that day it will be said:
“Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”
For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.

His servant and yours,