Ave Maria! “How can
anyone fill them with bread here in the wilderness?”
“How can anyone fill them with bread here in the wilderness?”
In listening to the sermons of our Lord we notice a curious thing. When He speaks about the kingdom of heaven, He often says that is similar to some earthly thing: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed” — or “like a man who sowed good seed in his field”—or “like” some other thing with which his listeners are familiar. But, often, when He speaks of Himself, He says that He “is” something, rather than saying that He is “like” it.
For example, at the Last Supper He told His apostles “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine-dresser.” Or, after the first time He multiplied loaves of bread in the desert, He said, “I am the bread of life.” When He spoke to the Samaritan woman, He didn't promise her something like water, but rather He promised her living water. In all of these cases, He is comparing Himself to an earthly thing, but in each case, what is symbolized is more real than the symbol itself.
In Baptism we are washed with water, of course. But the reality of this symbol is much greater than any washing with soap and water could ever be. We are cleansed not from the dust of the road or the sweat of the brow—the reality is that we are cleansed from our sins. We are not just lowered into a watery grave as our Lord was lowered into the Jordan—the reality is that we die with our Lord to sin and rise with Him in the resurrection so that sin and death no longer have dominion over us.
In Holy Communion we receive what appears to be bread. But in reality, it is the Bread of Life, the true Body and Blood, humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ. In its appearances it is multiplied just as it was in the wilderness; present whenever and wherever holy Mass is offered, distributed to the faithful in truly awesome numbers, and reigning from every tabernacle in the world. But again, in reality, It is One; for Christ is not divided, not split up into pieces, not separated limb from limb. In reality, the many faithful are united around Christ, rather Christ being broken into pieces,
In the Church we are instructed in God's doctrines, and admonished to observe His moral precepts. But these things are much more than just earthly truth and integrity—they are our very union with God, for the branches cannot survive if they are not nourished by the vine, they will not be tolerated by the vine-dresser if they don't bear good fruit.
At the side of Christ, the Centurion reached into the heart of Jesus with a lance bringing forth steams of blood and water. In reality he brought forth the entire stream of sacramental grace, washing us, as it were, “in the Blood of the Lamb”—bringing with it the graces needed at every moment of our life, freeing us from sin, nourishing us with the Body of the Lamb, strengthening us in His Spirit, sanctifying our marriages and our vocations, and preparing us for eternal life. Look what these appearances did for the Centurion: They turned a pagan executioner into a believer, enabling him to glorify God and utter the reality: “Truly this was the Son of God.”
In all of these things the reality is much greater than the appearance. And, perhaps, of all such “appearances,” the most important one is our own life. I can say this because our life here on earth is an appearance or a sign that points beyond itself, to a reality far beyond what we see when we look at the earthly life of a man or woman. Earthly life is a mixture of pain and joy, triumph and tragedy—“seventy is the sum of our years or eighty if we are strong”; a few live to ninety or a hundred, but we all die. That's the appearance of it.
But the reality is something different: God has taken mortal and sinful man and raised him up above his earthly nature. Through Jesus Christ we are offered the twin realities of sanctifying grace and eternal life—certainly something much greater than the appearances of impending death.
But, there still is a choice to be made. Even after offering His Son for us on the Cross, God does not take away our free will. We are free to choose right or wrong, truth or falsity, Jesus or Satan, heaven or hell. At every moment in our lives we stand at a cross-road, with a decision to make.
The decision we make, should, of course, be unmistakable to us. It is clearly spelled out in one of our Lord's most famous statements not about what He is like, but about what He is:
I am the way, the truth, and the life.
That's the reality—everything else is misleading appearance.