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Saint John's Gospel - Chapter vi
children of the free woman—in virtue of the freedom wherewith God has made
What Saint Paul meant by relating the
story of Abraham's wife Sara and his concubine Agar is that by virtue of the
Incarnation of Jesus Christ, those who follow Him are raised up above the level
of the mundane. Indeed, not only are we children of the free woman, we are in
fact the adopted sons and daughters of God, Who has made us free. This is
something that we hear in Saint John's Gospel, read at the end of almost every
Mass: “to those who received Him, He gave the power of becoming sons of God.”
The Gospel read this morning as also
that of Saint John, a few chapters later in the sixth chapter.
It is a chapter that I recommend that all Christians read one a year in order to
understand the chief benefit enjoyed by God's sons and daughters, the Most
Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. What we read today is only a prelude to the
important part. But the prelude is important in itself.
First, it shows us the compassion of
Jesus Christ. He had drawn a large crowd—five thousand men, perhaps as many
women, and maybe some children. Quite likely many had come from a distance, and
all would be hungry. The Passover was near, so many of them would be making the
trek to Jerusalem for the prescribed observance of the Feast. They had to be
fed, but feeding them would take a lot of bread. “Two‑hundred denarii
worth of bread” was the amount one could buy with two hundred days wages—over
have a year! And that, of course, presupposed that there was someone around who
had that much to sell. All they could find was a “young boy who had five barley
loves and two fishes.” But yet the crowd must be fed.
So our Lord had them recline on the
grass and began to hand out the bread and the fish—“as much as they wished.” And
at the end, the leftovers were enough to fill twelve baskets! We are reminded
of the wedding at Cana, where compassion moved our Lord to produce very good
wine in great quantity. But today's miracle is even more impressive. At Cana
we know that the servants filled the jars with water, which then became wine.
But today our Lord is not “merely” turning one thing into another—He is creating
new matter out of nothing! It is reminiscent of God creating the world ex
nihilo. The twelve baskets contained physical matter that simply did not
exist when Jesus decided to feed the crowd.
As I mentioned, the rest of this sixth
chapter of Saint John’s Gospel contains the promise of the Eucharist. Quite
likely, our Lord worked this miracle of the multiplication of loaves to prepare
His followers for the possibility of His Body and Blood being simultaneously in
all the tabernacles of the world. His human priests do not create matter out of
nothing, but with the words of consecration in the Mass, our Lord’s body and
blood are called down to the altars all over the world to feed the great
multitudes of Catholics as the spiritual food of God’s sons and daughters.
I ask you to read the rest of the
chapter at your earliest opportunity. In it our Lord very clearly explains that
He is the bread of Life, and that He will give Himself to us to eat and drink
His body and blood. And unless we eat and drink this sacred food we will not
have life in us—but, if we do, He will raise us up on the last day.
Parenthetically, I should mention that
we receive Jesus’ body and blood even if we only receive the Communion host—we
receive the living body of Christ, and it is not possible to separate that body
from the blood coursing through his veins. We are talking about the real body
of Christ and not just a mere symbol!
Finally, the sixth chapter of John
demonstrates that our Lord was being quite literal—promising to give us His
actual body and blood, and not a bare representation. There are people in the
crowd who question: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
“This saying is hard, and who can hear it?”
Ultimately, these scoffers stopped following Jesus,—“many of his disciples went
back; and walked no more with him.”—but
Jesus just let the unbelievers go—for faith is a gift that must come from the
As Catholics, God has given us this gift.
Be sure to read about it—Saint John’s
Gospel, chapter 6—It is this faith that makes us free!
“We are children
of the free woman—in virtue of the freedom wherewith God has made us free.”