Homily for the feast of Corpus Christi - Year C - Lk. 9:11-17
Father Daniel Meynen
"Jesus spoke to them of the kingdom of God, and cured those who had need of healing. Now the day began to wear away; and the twelve came and said to him, 'Send the crowd away, to go into the villages and country round about, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a lonely place.' But he said to them, 'You give them something to eat.' They said, 'We have no more than five loaves and two fish -- unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.' For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, 'Make them sit down in companies, about fifty each.' And they did so, and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were satisfied. And they took up what was left over, twelve baskets of broken pieces."
"Jesus spoke to them of the kingdom of God."
Today we celebrate the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. Indeed, the Church makes a point of celebrating, with splendor and ampleness, a feast specially dedicated to the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which is called Holy, and even Most Holy, because it is the sign of the real presence of the Lord Jesus, the Saint of Saints, the only Holy One! Although the Sacrament of the Eucharist was instituted by the Lord on the evening of the Paschal Meal, on the eve of his Passion, this feast is celebrated on this day, first because the time of Holy Week requires more simplicity and lack of adornment in its celebrations, and second because the Lord himself asked for this, through the intermediary of a holy Belgian nun: Saint Juliana of Mont-Cornillon. Indeed, it is this nun who was at the origin of the feast of the Blessed Sacrament, or Corpus Christi, celebrated for the first time in 1247, in Liège, Belgium. In the year 1264, Pope Urban IV, who had been an archdeacon of Liège, extended the celebration of Corpus Christi to the universal Church.
God takes care of us through his Providence! In order that the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of his Son might be worthily honored throughout the world, God did not hesitate to employ the services of a simple nun, whose life was filled with trials of all kinds, but also, above all, with graces without number! God makes use of poor and humble means in order to make his glory shine forth and to manifest to the men of this world his immense Love! The Providence of God does not do anything ostentatiously: it provides for a simple, almost trivial, means, but one that will serve man in accomplishing great things for the Glory of God! And thus it is with the Sacrament of the Eucharist: on every day made by God, there is a priest to repeat, among you, at the altar of the Lord, the words with which Jesus makes himself present under the sensible signs of the bread and wine, the bread and wine that Divine Providence itself places in our hands...
"Jesus spoke to them of the kingdom of God, and cured those who had need of healing. Now the day began to wear away; and the twelve came and said to him, 'Send the crowd away, to go into the villages and country round about, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a lonely place.' "
The day is coming to a close, and the people are listening to Jesus speak to them of the Kingdom of God. The Apostles go to Jesus and ask him to stop his discourse and to send the people away in order that they might be able to go and buy something to eat. When we read this account, it seems a little strange that no one in the crowd would have expressed this same intention. Perhaps no one did... Saint Luke does not tell us whether or not this was the case. But there is a reason for all of this: Jesus wants to show us that his Word truly captivates spirits, that his divine Word is the only thing that counts in the eyes of those who, at any cost, are eager to enter, one day, the Kingdom of God! Perhaps Jesus wanted to provide his Apostles with a lesson? For they seemed to worry too much about temporal things! In any event, this is normal: the Master is there to teach and to provide his disciples with all the lessons they need. And today, the lesson concerns confidence in Divine Providence!
"But he said to them, 'You give them something to eat.' They said, 'We have no more than five loaves and two fish -- unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.' For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, 'Make them sit down in companies, about fifty each.' And they did so, and made them all sit down."
Truly, Jesus wants to give his disciples a small lesson. So he says to them: "You give them something to eat." The disciples could not neglect such an order of the Lord: their duty is to obey the commands of the Master! So, they do some searching in the crowd (cf. Mk. 6:38) and eventually find someone who has five loaves of bread and two fish. But this is quite insufficient. All of this shows us very clearly that the Apostles, the disciples of the Lord, those whom Christ chose to continue his Mission on earth, should not worry primarily about temporal needs: these must remain secondary. What is important is the preaching of the Word of God! "You give them something to eat": this means, first of all, "Give my People the Word of God, the Word that gives eternal Life; give them the Bread of Life, which is my Body!" The Apostles did this very well after they had received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, for they very quickly decided upon the institution of deacons for serving tables: "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." (Acts 6:2-4)
"And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were satisfied. And they took up what was left over, twelve baskets of broken pieces."
Full of compassion and benevolence for these admirable people, who had faith and hope in the eternal Life that he had come to proclaim to them, Jesus lifts up his eyes to heaven and blesses the loaves and the two fish. As he looks towards the Father, Jesus already sees all those who will one day be at his side in the Kingdom, and he prays for them. It is in this spirit that the Lord multiplies the loaves and the fish by blessing them... Everyone ate until they were full, and what remained of the food filled twelve baskets. One basket for each apostle! It is as if Jesus had said to his disciples: "Do not be afraid! I am watching over you! Providence is with you! Faithfully carry out your mission - which is my mission - and I will provide for all your needs!"
On this day, let us all receive the Bread of Life! Let us all be Apostles of Jesus Christ! Let us proclaim the Kingdom of God and entrust our life as well as all who are dear to us to the Providence of God! God takes care of us like a Father! Even more so, he takes care of us like a Mother, for he gave us the Mother of his Son Jesus: Mary is our Mother in Heaven! Let us also ask her to watch over us and to give us today the eternal Life that is in Jesus her Son, along with that little bit more that only a Mother can have in her heart, to which she witnesses in order to please her children!