Background on the Gospel Reading
Today, the second Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate a second solemnity, which marks our return to Ordinary Time. Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. At one time, this day was called Corpus Christi, Latin for “the Body of Christ.” In the most recent revision of the liturgy, the name for this day is expanded to be a more complete reflection of our Eucharistic theology.
The feeding of the 5,000 is the only one of Jesus’ miracles to appear in all four Gospels. Luke places it between Herod’s question, “Who is this about whom I hear such things?” and Peter’s response to Jesus’ question about who he thought Jesus was: “You are the Messiah of God.” In Luke the feeding is not the result of Jesus’ compassion for the crowd but is instigated by the disciples. They wanted Jesus to send the crowd away to town. Instead Jesus tells the disciples to give them some food on their own.
The passage is meant to remind us of two feedings in the Old Testament: the feeding of the Israelites in the desert and Elisha’s feeding of 100 people with 20 loaves in 2 Kings 4:42-44. It is also connected to the institution of the Eucharist. As in the Last Supper accounts in Matthew, Mark, and Luke and in Paul’s account in 1 Corinthians 11:23-24, Jesus takes bread, looks up to heaven, blesses the bread, breaks it, and then gives it to the disciples. In using this exact language, Luke is reminding his readers that in this miracle Jesus is doing more than feeding hungry people as God did for the Israelites and the prophet Elisha did as well. The bread he gives is his body, which he will continue to give as often as the community breaks bread in remembrance of him in the Eucharist.
Gospel: Luke 9:11-17
The feeding of the five thousand
Jesus made the crowds welcome and talked to them about the kingdom of God; and he cured those who were in need of healing. It was late afternoon when the Twelve came to him and said, ‘Send the people away, and they can go to the villages and farms round about to find lodging and food; for we are in a lonely place here.’ He replied, ‘Give them something to eat yourselves.’ But they said, ‘We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we are to go ourselves and buy food for all these people.’ For there were about five thousand men. But he said to his disciples, ‘Get them to sit down in parties of about fifty.’ They did so and made them all sit down. Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven, and said the blessing over them; then he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute among the crowd. They all ate as much as they wanted, and when the scraps remaining were collected they filled twelve baskets.
The Church comes from the Eucharist, for it is the sacrifice that makes saints. The Eucharist is essentially the fullest act of gratitude prefigured in Melchizedek finding its fulfillment in the sacrifice of Christ. Every Mass is a participation in and celebration of this sacrifice, but the feast of Corpus Christi is a time to be especially aware of the gift of the Eucharist.
At the dawn of salvation history, God revealed our future in figures. That’s what’s going on in today’s First Reading: A king and high priest comes from Jerusalem (see Psalm 76:3), offering bread and wine to celebrate the victory of God’s beloved servant, Abram, over his foes.
By his offering, Melchizedek bestows God’s blessings on Abram. He is showing us, too, how one day we will receive God’s blessings and in turn “bless God”—how we will give thanks to Him for delivering us from our enemies, sin and death.
As Paul recalls in today’s Epistle, Jesus transformed the sign of bread and wine, making it a sign of His Body and Blood, through which God bestows upon us the blessings of His “new covenant.”
Jesus is “the priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek,” that God, in today’s Psalm, swears will rule from Zion, the new Jerusalem (see Hebrews 6:20–7:3).
By the miracle of loaves and fishes, Jesus in today’s Gospel again prefigures the blessings of the Eucharist.
Notice that He takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to the Twelve. You find the precise order and words in the Last Supper (see Luke 22:19) and in His celebration of the Eucharist on the first Easter night (see Luke 24:30).
The Eucharist fulfills the offering of Melchizedek. It is the daily miracle of the heavenly high priesthood of Jesus.
It is a priesthood He conferred upon the Apostles in ordering them to feed the crowd, in filling exactly twelve baskets with leftover bread, in commanding them on the night He was handed over: “Do this in remembrance of Me.”
Through His priests He still feeds us in “the deserted place” of our earthly exile. And by this sign He pledges to us a glory yet to come. For as often as we share in His body and blood, we proclaim His victory over death, until He comes again to make His victory our own.
Read today’s Readings here
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you, the Holy Trinity, dwell in my soul. Thank you for the joy of your friendship and love. I hope in you; I hope that you will guide me and my loved ones home to heaven, where we can delight in your presence forever. I love you and long to be a better instrument of your love.
Petition: Lord, help me to achieve an unconditional trust in you.
A Test to Get Us to Grow in Trust: It was clear that Jesus’ disciples did not have the means to help these people out of their predicament — neither in ready available cash nor in locating a nearby market large enough to feed the overburdening crowd. Yet Scripture says, “He said this to test him.” Let this passage remind us that God can allow our problems to become so big and desperate as to show forth his power. God wants us to trust in him and to purify our intentions along our journey of faith. How great our Lord is in solving the unsolvable and making possible the impossible. He cures the incurable, raises people from the dead, and, most importantly, converts the erring sinner. “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:38). Do I easily give up hope when I don’t see a human solution to a situation? Blessed is he who believes that what the Lord promises will be fulfilled (Cf. Luke 1:46).
Our Lord Wants Us to Play a Part in His Miracle: God has the power of creating something out of nothing, but he asks for human collaboration, even if it is minimal. Here it is no different. The apostles are utterly poor: they can bring to Our Lord only five loaves and two fish from a boy they find in the crowd. Jesus asks us to contribute because he wants to teach us to be generous, even when we think we have nothing to give. Actually, it is when we give from our want that we most please Our Lord (Cf. Luke 21:1-4). Poverty is never an excuse for a lack of generosity in serving and working for Our Lord. This miracle proves to us that Our Lord can never be outdone in generosity.
Don’t Miss the Point: In this scene Our Lord slowly prepared his apostles and disciples for his teaching on the Real Presence in the Eucharist. He had to purify their hearts and prune out attachment to the things of this world in order for them to accept the difficult teaching about his self-giving love found in the Eucharist. Even so, when he saw that the people were about to miss the point of his miracle, Our Lord “withdrew again to the mountain alone” (John 6:15). Sometimes Our Lord withdraws the comfort and consolation of his presence in our lives because we wrongly interpret their meaning and purpose. Do I properly discern the spirit in my heart when I pray? Am I happy only for things that gives me comfort, or am I truly coming closer to Christ because I recognize who he is and return to him the same authentic love he gives me and wants from me?
Conversation with Christ: Thank you, Lord, for this meditation and the lessons I learned from it. Keep me generous so I may never lose my trust in you. When the situations of my life seem unsolvable, help me to trust that in your time, you will work your wonders in my life, bringing glory to your name.
Resolution: I will make a visit to the Eucharist or a spiritual communion each day this week, offering this sacrifice of time for the conversion of the hearts of those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust, or do not love you, Lord, in the Eucharist.