Feast of the Body and Blood of our Lord
Sunday 19th June 2022
The Gospel Paraphrased
There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.
This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased
Jesus had withdrawn out to the desert of Bethsaida with his disciples but the people followed him.
Lk 9 11-17
Jesus welcomed them and spoke to them about the Kingdom of God and healed those who needed healing. When the day drew to a close, the twelve came to him and said, ‘Send this crowd away, so that they can go and find lodging and food in the nearby villages and town. There is nothing in this desolate place.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘Feed them yourselves!’ ‘What! We have no more than five loaves and two fish,’ they said, ‘unless we are expected to go into the towns and buy them food?’ There were about five thousand. Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Make the people sit down in groups of about fifty.’ They did this and all the people sat down ready to eat. Then Jesus took the bread and the fish, looked up to heaven, and blessed, broke and gave them to his disciples to give to the crowd. They all ate and were full. Of what was left over, they filled twelve baskets.
The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.
This Sunday's Psalm
God said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand’
I will make your enemies into a footstool.
God will send out the rod of strength from Zion.
So rule in the midst of your enemies.
The people will acclaim your power.
From birth, your beauty and holiness have shone.
You are radiant with the freshness of youth.
God has sworn and will not retract:
You are a priest in the order of Melchizedek.
Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.
This Sunday's Prayer
Loving Father, you feed us with the Body and Blood of your Son so that we may reveal his life and love through our very selves. Send us your Spirit to open us to the wonder of this mystery, both when we celebrate Eucharist and when we serve each other. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
There are a number of links between this story of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish and the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper and it is these links that explain its use for this Feast. Firstly, the miracle occurs in the Gospel just before the first prophecy of the Passion, just as the institution took place just before the Passion itself. Secondly, both events take place as the ‘day’ is drawing to a close. With the institution it is not just the day itself but the ‘day’ of the earthly life of Jesus that is ending. Thirdly, there are four verbs that occur in both stories and also in our celebration of the Eucharist. Jesus ‘takes’, ‘blesses’, breaks’ and ‘gives’ the bread and fish to the disciples to distribute. These are the central actions of our Eucharist. Immediately after doing them Jesus commands the twelve to go among the people serving them with the multiplied food. Jesus does not give it to the people directly, the disciples become his hands. Indeed the people possibly didn’t know where the food came from. Thus the disciples who had so recently been given power to expel demons are now given a greater power: to serve from Jesus’ abundance. And it is abundant. The number twelve often stands for completeness or abundance in Biblical language so the twelve baskets of left-overs show that the people have not only been well fed but there is more than enough.
Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.
This Sunday's Exposition
‘Send the people away…’ The disciples were not insensitive to the people’s need for food and shelter as night approached. But while their response seems realistic it also reveals a common human reflex in the face of neediness – send the needy ones away for some else to deal with. It is only when Jesus says, ‘Feed them yourselves’, that the disciples notice the little bit of food that they already have. When they offer that, Jesus then performs his miracle. Even though they have only a little bit, it is more than enough for him to extravagantly feed the five thousand – not that Jesus will allow extravagance to occur. (For someone who can make so much of so little so easily, Jesus is careful that no waste takes place.) The ‘little bit’ that they offer is no more than a gesture but gestures can mean so much, especially when it is our humble gestures in the face of a loving God who desires so much to give.
What we offer when we come to the Eucharist, the bread and wine – symbols of the work of our hands – don’t look like much: a piece of flat bread, a sip of wine. Indeed they are little more than gestures but, in return, Jesus offers himself: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, as the old catechisms put it. In short, he gives his all when we offer even a little. On the strength of that food, God can work miracles in our lives.
So as we go out from Eucharist to the needy that we meet, we may be fearful that their needs will overwhelm us and suck us dry. Maybe we should not concern ourselves with offering the solution to all their problems and needs but rather look for the appropriate gesture of love. Then leave it to God’s extravagant power and love to transform the situation…oh, and also, be careful not to waste!
Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.
This Sunday's Reflection
There is a strong link made between this Gospel text and the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. One of the primary reasons for this link lies in four verbs which occur in both texts: take, bless, break, and give. By the use of the verbs, both texts are used to explore the meaning of each other. Through the care shown in feeding the 5,000 from the miraculous multiplication, we learn that our celebration of the Eucharist is not just for our private spiritual life but must led us to go out and serve those in need. Similarly, we learn that we cannot serve the needy from our own poor resources, but need to be sustained by the life of Christ that we receive in the Eucharist. Having received we can then share from the very life of God.
But there is an ‘extra’ verb in this reading which, though it does not appear in the institution of the Eucharist, gives an extra dimension to our ability to serve. This Feast’s Gospel states that after he had taken the bread “Jesus looked up to heaven” before he blessed it. Not only was Jesus seen by God in his actions, he looked to God as he acted. And surely this was a gaze of love that went between the two. This we are called to do, both when we celebrate Eucharist and when we serve. We are not to be mere servants of God, keeping our eyes to the ground, working away at being good and trying to fulfil the rules and regulations we know we should do. Rather we should be continually raising our eyes in love and drawing strength from the gaze of love that God is lavishing upon us. This will transform our lives. If we feel that our service of God and others feels like a form of drudgery, it is because we are drawing our energy from the wrong source, our selves. But if we are continually looking to the gaze of God, it will be the life of Christ that will sustain us and our service will become another form of celebration of the Eucharist.
Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.
This Sunday's Visual Meditation
- An image of bread and fish from the Catacombs. (click red text)
- Third to fourth century sarcophagus . (click red text)
- ¬An Illumination from the Duc of Berry prayerbook (click red text).
- ¬Tintoretto’s The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes (click red rext).
- Mafa [The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes] (https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/soul-seeing/seeing-all-life-through-banquet-lens) (click red text)
- ¬John Reilly The feeding of the five thousand (click red text)
The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.
This Sunday's Mulling Meditation
As you go through this week, mull on the strength you could draw on from the Eucharist you have received on Sunday. Consciously try to make it a focal point of prayer.
In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.
This Sunday's Mirror Meditation
Rest in the love of your God.
We all experience people coming to us in need. Quietly and calmly think of all the people who you need to serve. Ask yourself where in particular you feel overwhelmed. Bring that situation and that person to Jesus and ask him what do you already have that could help that person in such a way that you won’t be so overwhelmed.
Rest in the love of your God.
Suggestions for the Programme
The elements of the programme can be used in any way that helps your prayer. The suggestions below are fairly simple ways of using this programme.
Become conscious of your God
Hymn or poem
Reading of Gospel text
Mulling over a reflection
Become conscious of your God
Reading of Gospel text and reflection
The programme can also be used for Staff Prayer. How you may put together such a prayer would be influenced largely by the size and dynamics of your staff. For example, a smaller staff group might be able to use discussion of a movie as a way of exploring the meaning of a Gospel.
A painting illustrating the Gospel could be displayed on an interactive board
Reading of the Gospel
Invitation for share reflections
Reading of part of the Gospel
One or two of the mulling themes
Time for reflection
- By Your Priestly Power, O Risen Lord by James McAuley
- I am the Bread of Life by S. Toolan
- Let all Mortal Flesh keep silence Traditional
- Soul of my Saviour by Thomas Aquinas