FIRST READING (Hasten and eat.)
A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (55:1-3)
Thus says the Lord: All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grainand eat; come, without paying and without cost, drinkwine and milk! Why spend your money for what is notbread; your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, andyou shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come tome heedfully, listen, that you may have life. I will renewwith you the everlasting covenant, the benefits assured toDavid. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM (145:8-9, 15-16, 17-18)
R. The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all ourneeds. (Cf. Ps 145:16)
The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and ofgreat kindness. The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all his works. (R)
The eyes of all look hopefully to you, and you give themtheir food in due season; you open your hand and satisfythe desire of every living thing. (R)
The Lord is just in all his ways and holy in all his works.The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who callupon him in truth. (R)
SECOND READING (No creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.)
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans (8:35, 37-39)
Brothers and sisters: What will separate us from thelove of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution,or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in allthese things we conquer overwhelmingly through himwho loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, norlife, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, norfuture things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anyother creature will be able to separate us from the love ofGod in Christ Jesus our Lord. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Mt 4:4b)
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
One does not live on bread alone, but on every word thatcomes forth from the mouth of God. (R)
GOSPEL (They all ate and were satisfied.)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (14:13-21)
When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. Thecrowds heard of this and followed him on foot from theirtowns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,his heart was moved with pity for them, and he curedtheir sick. When it was evening, the disciples approachedhim and said, “This is a deserted place and it is alreadylate; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” Then he said, “Bring them here to me,” and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over—twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children. —The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
“They All Ate and Were Satisfied.”
The most important miracle in the Gospels is the “multiplication of loaves and fishes.” It is the one miracle found in all four Gospels, and coincidentally in the Church’s calendar, the Gospel is often read in the month of August. Each time we hear this Gospel we are offered an opportunity to reflect on the Eucharist, on the Mass – the central action of Catholic life – because this miracle of Jesus was considered by the Church a preview of what the Mass meant and means even today.
One aspect I would like to examine today with you is the concept of the Mass as the place for spiritual nourishment, the source of our spiritual strength. This is an especially important concept for us who are – because of the pandemic that has affected our lives for the last 7 months – often deprived of this source of nourishment.
In our first reading from Isaiah, the prophet writes to a people in exile. The Lord now calls them to abandon the security they felt in Babylon and to undertake a long and difficult journey to return to their homeland. Returning home for most of them had only been a distant dream that the Jewish nation could fantasize about and look forward to with a detached enthusiasm. But now, when the return was imminent, they faced many problems. For many of them – sadly – it seemed better to just stay comfortable and remain back in Babylon, in exile.
So what they needed was strength so that with all the problems and obstacles they would face in returning and rebuilding their lives and nation, their purpose as God’s chosen people would not waver. Like the people in Isaiah’s time, we too need strength and spiritual stamina to leave the Babylon of our times and return to the land of the Lord, the land of grace. For us, this strength and stamina are found in CONVERSION OF LIFE, and this conversion of life is never easy. We need spiritual muscle or strength. We know how to build up bodily muscle through exercise and diet. But how to we build up spiritual muscle?
When we come to Mass there are two tables before us that provide us nourishment to strengthen us: the table of the WORD and the table of the EUCHARIST. At the table of the WORD we hear the saving truth of God read and proclaimed, preached and applied to our daily life, just as Jesus did through his teachings. At the table of the EUCHARIST we receive the Risen Lord and the real transfer of Christ’s life and strength to us – GRACE. As we are fed and nourished from these two tables over time, we grow stronger and wiser in the Lord.
The growth of God’s life in us through the Eucharist is not like an explosion but more like the metabolism of cells or the restoration of tissue which natural foods bring to our bodies. Only later, when we face a crisis or tragedy are we surprised at the spiritual strength we received from the Lord that now sustains us.
At Mass we have time to hear God’s holy WORD. Many of us have Bibles at home but – do we open and read them? For most of us, the Sunday Mass is about the only time we hear God’s WORD and teaching – something we all need.
The Mass is also the time for COMMUNION. The Eucharist is the closest sacramental encounter with the Risen Christ we are able to have – even when, these days, we have tis encounter through “spiritual communion”.
And the Mass – the Sunday Eucharist – is a time we spend together as Catholics, as the Church, as a people sharing “one faith, one baptism,” people sharing the same faith traditions and values. This reminds us that – even when divided drastically by social distancing and quarantines – our life is not a private story but it is always part of the larger community of faith, of every person in the Body of Christ, in our world. So, the symbolic exchange of peace before communion symbolizes for us this wider reality. The person near us, next to us represents all the reconciliation we have yet to achieve in our life to each other. Through this simple bow, this gesture, we are obeying the Lord’s command to be reconciled one to another before we approach the TABLE, acknowledging the healing each of us needs to bring into our daily life. Healing, then nourishment and strength!
St. Paul reminds the Romans in our 2nd reading today that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God that comes to us through Christ. Our Mass is that guarantee that the Lord Jesus will let nothing separate us from His love. But can we turn that around and say that we will let nothing separate us from the love of Christ in the Eucharist? There are many things that can harm us – our indifference, our failure to live up to Christ’s teachings in the Gospels, our absence from the Sunday Eucharist. This is perhaps the single greatest obstacle and challenge for us in these recent months. Staying faithful – even when deprived of physically coming to the Sunday Eucharist, taking the time to join together as a household, a family, friends, even alone in the quiet of a room – joining our brothers and sisters of this parish virtually through this medium – sustaining and strengthening each other in faith!
At each Mass the Lord calls us to follow him more closely and gives us food and strength for the journey of life that will lead us to our promised land with Christ. At the Mass is where we are nourished at the table of the WORD and the table of the EUCHARIST to strengthen our soul for this life-long journey. It’s a journey that is never easy, but a journey for which Christ Himself will always strengthen us. Let us continue to strengthen each other in faith as we are strengthen by Christ in this Mass.
Celebrant: God’s love is made visible in Christ Jesus, and the food of the Eucharist is the greatest gift of his love. Let us pray to the Lord who feeds us and answers all our needs.
READER: For the bishops, priests and deacons of our diocese who, in their daily ministry of the Eucharist, nourish us, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For governments and relief agencies helping to feed the starving people of our world, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For men, women, and children threatened or attacked because of their faith, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For those who labour to produce, prepare and serve the food we eat, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For the sick and suffering and for those who have asked for our prayers as well as for our faithful departed and the bereaved who mourn for them, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: Most bountiful Father, grant the favours we seek, as we renew the covenant and look forward to the feast of the Kingdom, in the celebration of this Eucharistic sacrifice. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. (all) AMEN.