The Body and Blood of Christ | Year C
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 here to find lodgings 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 people. 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.
Reflection Jesus made the crowds welcome and the Twelve wanted to send them away. It was not that the Twelve wanted rid of them; rather, their desire to send the crowds away was an expression of concern for the wellbeing of the people, who had been without food for hours.
The people’s desire to be in the presence of Jesus transcended their physical hunger. His words were food for their souls, the like of which they had never known. They may have become part of the crowd out of curiosity but what they received held them there, not wanting the time with Jesus to end.
When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist we are in his presence as surely as the people he fed with loaves and fishes were. The distribution of bread and wine comes near the end of the Mass. There is a short time of silence, perhaps a hymn, a blessing, and then the people are sent away to be Jesus in the world. In the short time between communion and the ending of the Mass, have we had time to experience the presence of Jesus deeply enough to satisfy our spiritual hunger, our desire for an intimate knowledge of him, our need to simply be with him?
The community dimension of the Mass tends to take over as the people leave, and it is good. But there are times when it may be better to stay behind, alone with the Lord, or to leave quickly in order to be alone with him in a quiet place. Without these times the food we have received may not be properly digested and processed into the passion and the spiritual energy which empower us to spread the Good News.
The people stayed and they were fed by Jesus. If they had left as the Twelve proposed, they may not have found sufficient food in the surrounding area and might have remained hungry. To stay in the presence of Jesus, in times of prayer or after Mass or in those moments when he is suddenly present to us, is the greatest privilege. It is essential to stay in the moment and not be tempted to rush off to all the other things in our lives; there is no nowhere else where we can receive such food for our souls.