Fr. Bloomfield's Blog

I am a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, currently assigned to Divine Child Parish in Dearborn, Michigan. When I manage to keep the page updated, hopefully something interesting can be found here!

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Homily for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A (July 31, 2005)

“They all ate and were satisfied.”

For the past few weeks, the Sunday Gospels have given us an opportunity to meditate on the Kingdom of Heaven as described by our Lord through parables. Today, however, the Church shifts Her gaze from parables to our Blessed Lord Himself and the miracles He works out of care for His flock.

We cannot dismiss the Miracles of Jesus as fanciful tales or idle stories. These mighty works accompany His words and bear witness to the Truth; they strengthen our faith and remind us that Jesus is no ordinary man: He is the Son of God. Nevertheless, these “signs and wonders” have also been points of contention throughout history. Many scholars have scoffed at the very idea of miracles. Thomas Jefferson was quite fond of the teachings of Jesus; nevertheless he edited the Gospels to completely remove all the miracles of our Lord.

Can we – as so many would like – simply ignore His miracles? Must we, along with Thomas Jefferson and others, reject these miracles to avoid a God so powerful that He can become a man, be born of a virgin, heal the sick, raise the dead, feed thousands with a few loaves of bread – and yet be apparently so weak that He can suffer and die the death of a common criminal?

We hear of two miracles today. The first is easily overlooked, but is essential to understand the sign Jesus works in the loaves. After leaving the boat, Jesus’ heart is moved with a deep and profound pity for the vast crowd. So what does he do? He cures the sick. He spends the entire day curing the sick, for the crowds remained until it was evening. The crowds must have been tired, since they had followed Jesus to this deserted place and remained despite their lack of food. Something compelled them to remain.

How confusing for Jesus to ask His disciples for the meager rations of five loaves and two fish; how indeed could such a small amount feed a crowd so large? Yet they listen and obey. Miraculously, five loaves and two fish in the hands of Jesus are enough to satisfy five-thousand men – not counting women and children – and fill twelve wicker baskets beside. He who created the entire world has no trouble multiplying fish and bread to feed a hungry crowd. Such a miracle of superabundance is not simply an exhortation to share what we have been given; it is rather a radical statement that Jesus, and only Jesus, can satisfy the deeper hunger that plagues our souls.

Are we content to spend our “wages for what fails to satisfy?” as Isaiah says in the first reading? Do we settle for creation when the Creator Himself is the only One who fills our deepest longings? Do we search for just one more distraction trying to fill our empty hearts, all the while ignoring our closest Friend and greatest Ally? We exhaust ourselves seeking money, power, physical fitness, popularity, sex, alcohol, drugs, gambling – and the list goes on and on. Jesus shows us the folly of such an attitude; He can feed a hungry crowd with two fish and a few loaves with leftovers a plenty. But He desires to feed not just our bodies, but more importantly, our souls.

How? “Looking up to heaven, [Jesus] said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples.” We cannot miss the imagery! This “prefigures” or alludes so clearly to Holy Thursday, the Last Supper, the first Mass in all of history. In the Blessed Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist, Jesus doesn’t just feed a hungry crowd with ordinary bread – He gives us His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. He gives us Himself, through the Sacramental power of His Church, handed on from the Apostles, through bishops and priests, to us.

This year, from last October until this October, has been declared the Year of the Eucharist by our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. Have we been eager to celebrate this Year of the Eucharist by increasing our devotion to the Blessed Sacrament? Have we grown closer to our Lord Substantially present under the appearances of Bread and Wine? Or do we continue to approach the Body and Blood of our Lord as though it were ordinary food and drink? Has receiving Holy Communion become a habit, a routine?

The Eucharist is the source and summit of the entire Christian life. Everything we do as Catholics revolves around the Eucharist: our apostolate is inspired, strengthened, and directed to the Holy Eucharist; the Sacraments flow from the power of the Eucharist, and return to it. The Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist is not just a sign or a symbol reminding us of Jesus and His ministry. The Eucharist is Jesus Himself, bodily present among us, in time and space.

This Real Presence of Jesus Christ is utterly unique, distinct, and different from the various modes of God’s presence that occur in public prayer, the reading of the Word, and even of the infused Theological Virtues in our soul. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, at the words of the priest, “This is my Body” and “This is the cup of my Blood,” ordinary bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. Although the accidents – the taste, touch, smell – remain, the substance has been changed. What is on the altar now is no longer the result of the baker’s oven or the vintner’s press; It is God Himself, dwelling in our midst, deserving of all our attention and devotion.

More wonderful yet is the tremendous reality of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which makes such transubstantiation possible! This Sacrifice is not distinct from the One Sacrifice offered by our Lord on Calvary those many centuries ago; it is the same action of the Trinity, distinguished only by time and space. Our Lord comes to us under the forms of bread and wine, not as a prisoner of history, but as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Our very lives must be transformed by His Lordship: in the Mass, we are brought by our Head as members of His Body into His perfect and eternal worship of the Father, in Spirit and in Truth.

Therefore, not only do we simply “remember” the saving events of our Faith; we truly enter in to this mystery. The Mass “re-presents” for us the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord. The Consecrated Elements – no longer bread and wine but the Body and Blood of Jesus – retain His Real Presence, even after Mass is concluded. We reserve the Eucharist in the Tabernacle because Jesus is Really, Truly, and Substantially present, offering us the opportunity to place every moment of our lives at His service. In Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, we follow Jesus with the hungry crowds into the desert, as it were, taking our illnesses to Him, and being cured and fed, not with mere bread, but with God Himself.

Prepare yourselves to receive our Lord in Holy Communion: what you receive is not bread and wine! Meditate on the mystery of the Real Presence; examine your conscience and come first to the Sacrament of Penance, grateful to receive our Lord with a heart purified of sin. Strive to see with the eyes of faith that which your senses cannot comprehend. Spend time before our Lord in the tabernacle this Year of the Eucharist; remain for a few minutes after Mass in silent adoration of the Lord Jesus, present in your body and soul. Come and visit Jesus in the tabernacle throughout the week, casting all your cares upon Him who loves us more deeply than we can know.

Let us then meditate briefly together on St. Thomas Aquinas’ beautiful hymn in honor of the Blessed Sacrament Adoro te devote, translated by Gerard Manly Hopkins:

Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.

Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived;
How says trusty hearing? That shall be believed;
What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.