For the next five weeks we will be hearing a very significant portion of the Gospel of John. It is referred to as the Bread of Life Discourse. Every three years we hear this discourse because it helps us to see the essential role that the Eucharist plays in our Catholic spiritual life. Jesuit priest, Tad Guzie, says that at the Last Supper Jesus identifies himself with bread and wine. This simple concept helps us to understand that Bread and Wine are essential elements to the celebration of the Eucharist. We at Holy Family are dedicated to the documents of Vatican II that tell us, “…Christ is present in four ways in the Eucharist: the people gathered, the word of Scripture proclaimed, the elements of Bread and Wine and the person of the priest.” They also tell us that the Eucharist is “… the source and summit of our faith life as Catholics.”
Below I have highlighted portions of what we will hear proclaimed for the next five weeks, and these words of Jesus do underscore the ultimate importance of the Eucharist in our Catholic faith. Each of the coming weeks we will focus on a certain segment or aspect of the Eucharist, and we will highlight unique ways that we at Holy Family ritualize and proclaim parts of the Eucharist. This week we will focus on the word liturgy which you may hear often. Liturgy is a Greek word meaning ‘the work of the people.’ In this case the word work means participate. The documents of Vatican II call us all to “…full, conscious and active participation in the Mass.” We here at Holy Family try to create a very vibrant worship experience which is not confined to music. We encourage you to actively listen to the scriptures proclaimed, to let the wide range of rituals speak to your heart. This requires some openness on our part, to be open to what God is saying ALL throughout the Liturgy.
Two unique Holy Family rituals that highlight this are our welcoming newcomers and visitors at the beginning of Mass and the congregation standing as the offertory gifts are brought forward, indicating that the gifts come from the people as an offering. I then encourage the gift bearers to walk all the way up to the altar so that they FACE the assembly as they PLACE the gifts of Bread and Wine on the altar, further emphasizing that they are gifts from us being offered to God. There is a lot of full, conscious and active participation by ALL during this part of the Liturgy.
This Weekend, July 28 & 29
We hear the only miracle story that is told in all 4 gospels. It is commonly referred to as the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. Jesus is faced with a seemingly impossible task of feeding a multitude of people. He simply asks what is available. The answer is five loaves of barley bead and two fish. This is nowhere near enough. He asks the people to sit down. He takes what he has, gives thanks for it and shares it, and in the end there is not only enough, there is more than enough. In fact, there are 12 baskets full of leftovers that signify this is a beginning, a starting point similar to the people of Israel starting their formation with 12 tribes and Jesus calling 12 apostles to start his ministering community. When you feel overwhelmed, try giving thanks for what you have and sharing it, and see what happens.
Next week, August 5
People follow Jesus after they have been fed. He encourages them not to seek another meal but to work for things that last. They inquire as to his definition of work. Jesus replies that the work is to believe in God and to believe in him. They refer to the fact that Moses fed them in the desert. Jesus responds that it was not Moses who fed them but God who feeds them through Jesus. He then clearly states, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” “I am the bread of life” will be repeated several times.
The people murmur against Jesus. He states that their ancestors ate manna in the desert but they died. Whoever eats this bread (himself) will live forever, and the bread that is him and that he gives them is his flesh for the life of the world.
There is more murmuring. Jesus responds, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, you have no life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise them up on the last day. My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink…” That weekend we will welcome Bishop Elect Ron Hicks as our summer mission appeal speaker.
There is still more murmuring against Jesus. Some could not handle or believe his words so they stopped following Jesus. Jesus asks the disciples if they want to leave as well. Peter responds, “To whom shall we go Lord? You have the words of everlasting life and you are the holy one of God.” This statement helps us to see that much of our connection with the Eucharist is a leap of faith.