Greetings on this Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time.
We come back to John’s Gospel this week. John’s Gospel is unique from the other three Gospels in many ways. One major distinction is the absence of an “Institution Narrative.” This means John does not provide the establishment of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass or Eucharist by describing what we commonly refer to as the Last Supper.
However, John’s Gospel provides an overabundance of images and stories that help us understand the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass or the Eucharistic celebration. Today’s Gospel passage is the famous multiplication of the loaves and fishes. There is much here and all of it is a reference to the Mass. I cannot possibly cover it all.
I do want to focus on the aspect that our Mass is the same gathering of the crowd in this Gospel. The fact that our Lord is on a mountain when the crowds come to him is important. This is the coming together of the Divine and Humanity. This is the same when we gather for Mass. It is an intersection of sorts where God and His people come together. This is the context of our gathering at Mass. During Eucharistic Prayer III we hear the words, “… you never cease to gather people to yourself, so that from the rising of the sun to its setting….” This is the same gathering of our Lord on the mountain with the crowds of today’s Gospel. He gathers us to Himself. This is why it is important that we come to Mass with the greatest degree of respect. How we dress and prepare to be in God’s presence says a lot about how we enter into this gathering with the Lord.
Also, our attitude or overall posture is important. An important aspect of this gathering of the crowd with our Lord Jesus was the hunger of the crowd. The multiplication of loaves and fishes was all about feeding the hunger of the people. The Gospel makes clear that the people hungered for healing and nourishment, for purpose and meaning in life, for true joy and freedom from the torments of life. It is the Lord that takes our meager offering (a small portion of bread and fish) and turns it into an abundance of food. He feeds the crowd with so much food that there were 12 wicker baskets left over. And so, it is at Mass, we are fed, nourished and healed with an abundance of grace.
There is a reference in this Gospel to the Passover being near. This reference draws us to the Passover of the Israelites. This Passover reference speaks about God liberating His people from slavery from their oppressors. It is also the ultimate reference of the Jewish people as a reminder of being saved and led to freedom in miraculous ways… fed with manna in the desert, the parting of Red Sea, the destruction of the pursuing Army, etc.…. Also, the Passover refers to the sacrifice of the lamb. Those who participated in the sacrificial meal of the lamb were saved. All this is meant to be understood in reference to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
During Mass we come to know and experience liberation from sin by the Lamb of God. We participate in the sacrificial meal with the innocent lamb. We are fed and nourished in a miraculous way. Just as this Gospel provides an image of our Lord taking the bread, breaking it, giving thanks and distributing it to the crowd, so it continues to be at each and every Mass. The same hungry crowd that came to our Lord on that mountain is present at each Mass.
And like each person in that crowd, on that mountain we are fed, nourished, liberated and saved. We are blessed to encounter God in this way.
For all these reasons and more, I am completely dedicated and humbled to celebrate Mass with the greatest degree of passion and gratitude that I can muster. Having said that I also am committed to slowly developing our celebration of Mass at St. Mary Parish. We can and will do more to enter as fully as possible into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Of course, this cannot happen overnight but gradually I hope and pray we move along and build a more reverent and holy gathering in order to worship and praise our God.