Jesus Feeds the Multitude: a Reflection for Ministers of Communion (Part 2)

August 31, 2016

by Fr. Jonah Pollock, O.P., Associate Director, Dominican Friars Health Care Ministry of New York We have recently reflected on the profound connections between the gospel accounts of Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the multitude and Jesus’ wondrous feeding of his disciples with his Body and Blood at the Last Supper. Because of this connection, we are able to draw upon the gospel accounts of the feeding of the multitudes to deepen our understanding of Jesus’ feeding of his disciples with his own Body and Blood in Holy Communion. For those of us who administer Holy Communion to others, we can also draw upon these gospel passages to reflect on the way that Jesus uses us as his instruments in feeding his people. The gospels contain six accounts of Jesus feeding the multitude. All four gospels have accounts of Jesus feeding the five thousand (Matthew 14:14-21; Mark 6:34-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:5-15) and the gospels of Matthew and Mark have additional accounts of Jesus feeding the four thousand (Matthew 15:32-39; Mark 8:1-10). We have already reflected upon some of the passages in these gospel accounts. We considered Jesus’ pity for the crowd as related in Mark 6:34, Jesus’ enlisting of the disciples in the work of feeding the crowd in Matthew 14:16, and Jesus’ instruction to “gather the fragments” in John 6:12. Let us continue these reflections by considering four additional gospel passages. “He said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds” (Matt 14:19). Before the disciples give the loaves to the crowd, they first receive them from Jesus. In order to give, they must first receive. Here is another echo of what Jesus did at the Last Supper. He gave the bread, which had become his Body, to his disciples and said, “Do this in memory of me.” As ministers of Holy Communion, we give to others what we have first received. To be excellent ministers of Holy Communion, we must be faithful and frequent recipients of Holy Communion. We who are called to give the Bread of Life to the multitudes must first know in our own lives the profound impact of receiving it from Jesus. “They all ate and were satisfied” (Mark 6:42). All four gospels contain a version of this remark. Those who are miraculously fed by Jesus go away satisfied. In the Gospel of John, Jesus distinguishes between the bread that satisfies only for a time and the Bread that satisfies forever: “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you” (John 6:27). The Eucharist is the food that really satisfies. The Body and Blood of Christ that we consume in Holy Communion endure in our souls long after the physical elements are assimilated into our bodies. As ministers of Holy Communion we have the privilege of feeding others with “the food that endures for eternal life.” “When the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets” (Luke 9:17). This observation concludes the accounts of the feeding of the five thousand in all four gospels. In Matthew and Mark, the accounts of the feeding of the four thousand conclude with the statement, “They picked up the fragments left over – seven baskets full” (Matthew 15:37; Mark 8:7). These numbers are significant because, in Jewish tradition, both twelve and seven represent fullness or completion. Twelve is the number of the tribes of Israel, the full assembly of God’s people. Seven is the number of the days of creation that culminated with the Sabbath day, when God rested after completing his work. When the gospels tell us that twelve or seven baskets of fragments were left over after Jesus’ miraculous feeding, it suggests the fullness and superabundance of the food that Jesus gives. In the Eucharist, Jesus feeds us with the fullness of who he is. Our hearts cannot even begin to contain the abundance of what Jesus gives us. As in Psalm 23, our cups “overflow” with the fullness of God when we receive our Lord in Holy Communion. “When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, ‘This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world’” (John 6:14). According to the Gospel of John, the reaction of the people to Jesus’ miraculous feeding was to believe in him. In like manner, when Jesus wondrously feeds his people with his body and blood, he increases the faith of those who receive him faithfully. The Eucharist is a sacrament that both presupposes faith and strengthens faith. To receive Communion worthily we must possess faith already, the faith we received through baptism and by which we “discern the body” of the Lord (1 Cor 11:29). Then, when we faithfully receive Jesus in Holy Communion, that heavenly food nourishes in us the faith we already had. Our faith is strengthened and increased in our reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood. Having been feed with the Bread of Life, we too see the sign that Jesus has done and, with increased faith, confess that he is truly the Prophet, the Messiah, the Son of God and Savior of the world. This weekly series Reflections on Ethics, Faith, and Health Care is from DFHCMNY logo a ministry of the Province of St. Joseph centered at St. Catherine of Siena Priory in New York City

More News & Events