"They therefore gathered them up; and they filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten."
No doubt that this Gospel refers to the Blessed Sacrament. Later in the same chapter, our Lord tells His listeners that they must eat and drink His Flesh and Blood if they are to have eternal life in them.
He then promises to give just that -- His Body and Blood -- a promise which causes great consterrnation among many of His followers; "Lord this is a hard saying." And even though many of them leave, and cease to follow Jesus, we should note that He does not correct Himself. "This is a hard saying; how can this man give us his body and blood to eat and drink?" But He doesn't call them back, saying "You misunderstood Me." For they didn't misunderstand Him -- He meant, and they heard, precisely what He said.
This section of the Gospel gives us an understanding of How our Lord can be present in the Blessed Sacrament in all of the tabernacles of the world -- how each one of us, on receiving Holy Communion can receive His Body and Blood -- whole and entire -- even though there be hundreds or thousands of communicants.
Just as our Lord was able to take a few loaves and make them physically present to a few thousand people, He makes Himself present to us in each and every particle of the Blessed Sacrament. (That, by the way, is why the Church is so careful in her rubrics with the treatment of the consecrated Bread and Wine, lest even the tiniest particle be lost and exposed to poor treatment.)
This 6th chapter of St. John's Gospel is one we should read occasionally -- maybe twice a year -- for it gives us a truly substantial insight into the mysteries of the Holy Eucharist. And, this is an insight which we cannot afford to be without in this modern world, which continuously tries to deny the teachings of our Faith -- and particularly tries to deny the reality of our Lord's true Presence.
This morning's epistle speaks to this conflict between the ways of God and those who are against Him. It does so by way of allegory, speaking of mankind as the children of Abraham. It speaks of those who are born free; the children of Isaac, born through his wife Sara. And it speaks of those who are born into servitude; the children of Ishmael, born through his concubine Agar.
St. Paul points out that some things never change. The worldly will always try to persecute the children of God: "As then, He who was born according to the flesh, persecuted him who was born according to the spirit, so also it is now."
We should not be surprised, then, in our modern age, to see the teachings of the Church contradicted -- occasionally, even by those who claim to be Her teachers. There will always be those who are the slaves of sin, and they will always seek to pull down those who have found the freedom which comes with being a child of God. Just as the devil seeks to destroy souls because he is envious, the wicked of the world would like us to share their pitiful slavery.
But the theme of this Mass is to "Rejoice." It is a sort of rallying cry for Christians, "Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and come together all you who love her. "Rejoice, you who have been in sorrow, that you may exult and be filled from the abundance of your consolation" (Isaias 66).
We have been keeping the Lenten fast, in order to learn how to discipline ourselves to use the goods of the world in moderation. As Catholics, we have the great privilege of being refreshed with the "Bread of the Angels," the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.
There is a struggle going on in the world -- one which has continued since the fall of Lucifer and the other evil angels -- the struggle between good and evil -- the struggle between freedom and slavery.
We have about 3 weeks left in Lent -- 3 weeks in which to decide firmly that we are not going to be drawn over to the side of eternal slavery. Today is a day for rejoicing, for a little let up from the rigor of the Lenten enounce, and then tomorrow we must get back to it with renewed effort:
"We are not children of a slave girl, but of the free woman -- in virtue of the freedom wherewith Christ has made us free.