As St. Luke reports, originally, Jesus gave his first followers sustenance and nourishment when they found themselves in a deserted, out-of-the-way place outside the town of Bethsaida. He ministered to all their needs, bringing order, healing and meaning to their troubled lives.
Today, Corpus Christi, the feast of the Body of Christ, even as we renew our faith in the real presence of Christ in the sacred species of bread and wine; even as we worship him in all his humanity and divinity the way the angels in heaven worship God, we realize that the Lord wishes us to become Eucharist ourselves for people in out-of-the-way, deserted places.
“Give them some food yourselves.”
We are to receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion so that we may become Christ ourselves and thus, as his Body, we may give “some food” to those living desolate and troubled lives. The out-of-the-way, desolate places in which we are to feed people, i.e., to bring them healing and order, purpose and meaning, compassion and a sense of direction, are many, too many. And the task Jesus assigns us is nothing short of colossal.
We can give “some food“ourselves to women who are considering abortion as the best available solution to their situation.
We can give “some food” to people who have reached the conclusion that they should make a quick exit from this world because they feel useless or find no reason to continue living.
Jesus might expect us to give “some food” ourselves to any of the countless people who live troubled lives due to a divorce or crippling failures; to those who are ruled by fears and even to sensitize those who live with comfortable indifference to the plight of others.
The Lord might send us to give “some food” to people consumed by unforgiveness and resentment or to feed those who are wallowing in self-pity. We need to keep our eyes open and our hearts well-disposed so as to go quickly to give “some food” ourselves to people living in other types of desolate places such as faulty nursing homes, or to homeless people sleeping on sidewalks or to those enveloped tightly in isolation and neglect.
We cannot refuse the Lord’s invitations because there are desolate places in which we cannot enter to feed those collapsing from exhaustion: places where children are lured by prospects of a glamorous future and wind up being sold as slaves and totally dehumanized. Neither can we go to war-torn places where children soldiers are turned into cold-blooded killers; places where organs are harvested from victims of human trafficking or innocent children are sacrificed to Satan.
Alas, as we begin to think about out-of-the-way places and we make the connection with the evils of which human beings are capable, we realize that Jesus has good reasons to urge us to become a Eucharistic extension of him.
Immediately after making the connection, it might dawn on us that, in these days, perhaps, we might have even less than five loaves and two fish. However, the Lord who is sending us is the same one who told us bluntly: Without me you can do nothing” (cf. John 15:5).
If we forget this warning of his and fail to appreciate the significance of his celebration of Corpus Christi, we would certainly feel overwhelmed and freeze, or become totally passive.
Our comfort, once again, comes from the Word of God. Melchizedek is perhaps the most mysterious figure of the entire Bible. Nobody knows who he was, whose son he was; nothing. Precisely for his mysterious origins, speaking about him, the Letter to the Hebrews sees him as a symbol of divine intervention into our human predicament in order to motivate us to bring Christ to the entire world. The bread and wine that he offered as a priest are clearly the forerunners of the bread and wine, the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.
The message should be clear and reassuring: after receiving Holy Communion we become well-equipped to bring healing, purpose, meaning, compassion to anyone we meet in out-of-the-way, deserted, pain-filled places to which we feel compelled to go. And we are never alone. The Eucharist which nourishes our hearts and our souls is truly the Lord working not only by our side, but also from within us. Truly, we and the Lord Jesus become one and inseparable.
Every time we receive him in Holy Communion we must hear his order/invitation ringing in our ears and resonating in our hearts:
“Give them some food yourselves”
For the last 2000 years, it reaches our ears after, on the night he was handed over, he took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” We cannot overlook the fact that we are to eat the flesh of our God and drink his blood not only to have a share in his divinity and quench our thirst for eternal life, but also to “give some food ourselves” to lessen, if not to satisfy completely, the multiform hunger of countless people living in desolate places.
And in case we might not have thought of it, the first desolate, out-of-the-way place to which we might be sent could be our very home, our own family, our place of work, or our community. There is no way our Sunday obligation can end as we exit our church. Some of us might feel relieved at the end of their weekend Mass. “I’m all done for another week. Now I’m free to golf, to go fishing, boating, to do the things I want to do or just waste myself away in front of the TV set for a long time….”
Sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ means that his concerns and cares are our concerns and cares and, thus, there is no way we can put off his order “Give them some food yourselves,” not even by a few days: the hunger out there is too much to ignore.