“filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves,
which remained over and above [after five thousand] had eaten.”
Today’s Gospel reading consists
of the first fifteen verses of the sixth chapter of Saint John’s
Gospel. I sincerely believe that every Catholic ought to read this
chapter in its entirety once every year—and today would seem like a good
day to do it.
Why is “John-six” so important,
you ask? It is important because the second part of the chapter reports
our Lord clearly promising to give us His body and blood in Holy
Communion, while this first part gives us some assurance of His ability
to work such a miracle. There are many people, even Christians, who
refuse to believe in the Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed
Sacrament, but no one can make an honest reading of this chapter without
acknowledging that He promised His Presence in the Sacrament at this
event, roughly a year before the Last Supper.
To be sure, there were doubters
who heard Jesu speak: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
But Jesus was adamant: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and
drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my
flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise
him up in the last day.
Saint John records that “After this many of his disciples went back; and
walked no more with him.”
The doubters—who did not know the divine power of Jesus Christ—simply
It is significant to note that
Jesus did not call any of the doubters back—He did not make any attempt
to downplay His words. He did not call after them
saying that the Eucharist would be a mere “symbol” or “token”—He just
let the doubters go on their way. He did not try
to soften His meaning, because He meant just what He said. One year
later, at the Last Supper, He took the unleavened bread of the Passover
and gave it to His Apostles, saying “This is My
body….” And then He took the cup of wine and gave that to His Apostles
saying “This is a chalice of My blood….” This is
recorded in the first three Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke0 as well as
in Saint Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. In none of these
accounts is their the slightest hint that Jesus was speaking about
anything other than His actual body and blood
Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us
that Christ’s body and blood are present in the Eucharistic elements in
substance rather than in location.
That is to say that we are not required to believe that the body of a
man six feet or so tall is somehow squeezed into a Communion host about
the size of a quarter—what we believe is that the substance of the bread
has been changed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ.
The size of the altar bread is of no concern—in the early Church the
priest consecrated a loaf or two of bread, from which pieces were broken
for the Communion of the people. And, no matter how many times a piece
were subdivided, each fragment still contains the substance of Jesus
If you study the ceremonies of
the Mass, you will realize that they are intended to keep from losing
even the tiniest fragment. The starched altar linens, the Communion
paten, the priest keeping his thumbs and forefingers together after
touching the consecrated host, and drinking the wine and water used to
wash his fingers after distributing Holy Communion are all designed to
insure that none of the substance of Jesus Christ is lost or trodden
underfoot. Among the modernists, we see that the abandonment of such
precautions has led to disbelief in the Real Presence, even among people
No doubt, it was difficult for
the people mentioned in the Gospel to understand how our Lord could give
us His body and blood. To be sure, it is equally difficult for us to
understand how he could do this. For that matter,
it is difficult to understand how He could feed
five thousand people with a few loaves of bread. It seems clear that
our Lord performed this miracle just before promising to give His body
and blood in order that Christians might recognize that it pointless to
ask how He could do something He says He will do.
Jesus Christ is God, and He is always successful at doing what He sets
out to do. From the human perspective it is no easier to explain the
multiplication of loaves than to explain the working of the Eucharist.
But five thousand people were fed that day, even though we cannot
explain how. If He promises us His body and blood,
it is equally pointless for us to try to explain how.
. Jesus Christ is God, and He is always successful at doing what He
sets out to do.
The same divine power which
enabled our Lord to multiply loaves enables Him to be really present in
every consecrated host throughout the world. Just as the substance of
bread was multiplied for the five thousand, the substance of our Lord’s
body and blood is multiplied in every fragment of the blessed Eucharist.
“filled twelve baskets with
the fragments of the five barley loaves,
which remained over and above
[after five thousand] had eaten.”
fills all the tabernacles of the world with His body and blood, and
fills all of us who receive Him in Holy Communion with His divinity and
His sacred humanity.
read “John-six” for yourself today or as soon as it is possible!