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Sunday 19 June 2022: The Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

Give Them Something to Eat Yourselves
Genesis 14:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 9:11-17

By Adrian Cullen
Permanent Deacon & Director of Permanent Diaconate, Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster

Context: a Mass for men in formation for the Permanent Diaconate, together with their wives and others
Aim: highlighting how through the Eucharist, we are all called to diaconal ministry

Jesus looks to us for solutions. When, as we hear in our Gospel from Luke, the apostles urge Jesus to send his followers away so they can get food, he retorts, ‘Give them something to eat yourselves.’ It is perhaps a surprising, even slightly annoying response from their Lord and master. Surely Jesus knows that there is no way his small band of friends has anywhere near the resources to feed the crowd of five thousand and more. ‘We only have five loaves and two fish,’ they respond rather feebly, ‘unless we are to go ourselves and buy food for all these people.’ Clearly a not very convincing option.

Perhaps we can sense a pause; and then, as it were, Jesus swings into action. He knows we cannot do everything on our own, and here is an opportunity for him to show how by trusting in him as Son of God, then nothing is impossible. And so, the five loaves and two fish are indeed enough to feed the five thousand. And yet, the words, ‘Give them something to eat yourselves,’ do not go away. Was it just a clever remark from Jesus to introduce his next miracle? Is it a phrase that the gospel writer finds useful in setting the scene, with all its tension and excitement? Or is it perhaps more than that; an instruction from Jesus to his disciples full of real expectation, which travels through the ages, and is as relevant to us in these days as it was then?

DIACONAL MINISTRY

For Deacons, for those in formation for the diaconate, indeed all those who are baptised not only as priest, prophet and sovereign - but also as deacon, one who serves; the direction from Christ is real and alive. We are to feed the people of this troubled world as much as Jesus fed those followers in that lonely place. Today, on this Feast of Corpus Christi, indeed on this Solemnity of ‘The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ’, we celebrate how Jesus not only feeds the poor with loaves and fishes, the sick with healing and comfort, and the sinful with compassion and forgiveness; but also, with the fullness of himself, humanity and divinity, in the form of bread and wine, in the Eucharist.

We, who are Christ’s Church, his body on earth, are to do likewise, through our daily encounters; to offer Christ’s body as food to the poor, whatever their need; and his blood in striving for justice and peace. What we offer is the ordinariness of our lives. Like Melchizedek who offers bread which sustains, and wine which gives joy, we pray that our offering is acceptable to God; and trust that God, through the power of the Holy Spirit will make what is ordinary, extraordinary in the lives of those whom we serve.

PANDEMIC AND IDENTITY

For many, during this time of pandemic when we have been restricted in our movements or have taken extra care not to mingle with crowds, attendance at Sunday Mass has not always been possible. The usual routines have unravelled, and, for some, the celebration of the Eucharist has become distant, only to be viewed on the internet; while for others, attendance at Mass has slipped into a distant memory, as the pressing demands of daily living have taken over.

Yet it is the Eucharist which gives us identity, and connection through the ages. As Saint Paul says, ‘This is what I received from the Lord and in turn passed on to you.’ Let us not lose our identity. And, as Saint Paul also says, in the Eucharist, we are ‘proclaiming his death.’ Let us always proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection. And in doing so, there is to be no ‘self-isolation’ - we are to accompany all we encounter, in encountering Christ. There is to be no ‘lockdown’ – we are to reach out to all places and all people; to see the face of Christ in those on the fringes of society as much as we are joined with him in Mass.

As we re-emerge from the worst of the pandemic, let us continue to respond to Christ’s call to follow him and to be close to him; most especially in thanking our Heavenly Father through the celebration of the Eucharist, when Christ feeds us with his own body and blood. And let us also, through the power of the Holy Spirit, offer our whole selves in service to all those in need. Let us be deacons to the world, and so respond to Christ’s demand, ‘give them something to eat yourselves.’

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