August 11, 2020

Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, Foundress

Saint Jane Frances de Chanta

August 12th, is the optional memorial of Saint Jane Frances Fremiot de Chantal, the foundress of the Order of the Visitation of Mary. She was born in 1572 and came from a noble family, her father gave her in marriage to the Baron von Chantal in 1592. As mother she most zealously instructed the children in the ways of virtue and piety and in the observance of every divine precept. With great generosity, she supported the poor and took special joy in seeing how divine Providence often blesses and increases the smallest larder. Therefore, she made a vow never to refuse anyone who asked for alms in the Name of Christ.

The death of her husband, who was accidentally shot while on the chase (1601), she bore with Christ-like composure and with all her heart forgave the person who had killed him; then she acted as sponsor for one of his children in order to show her forgiveness openly. There was a holy friendship between her and her spiritual guide, Saint Francis de Sales. With his approval she left her father and her children and founded the Visitation nuns.

Thus, too, it should be with us—firm yet forgiving, and each at the proper place and in the proper measure. Our zeal must not make us hard, fanatic; neither may love degenerate into sentimentalism. In fundamentals, in faith, and in the commandments, we must be firm, immovable, with no trace of tolerance; but in our contacts with men, patient, forgiving, tender, conciliatory. The Christian ought to be firm and resolute as a father, mild and self-sacrificing as a mother. This tension between complementary virtues we find exemplified in a heroic degree in St. Jane Frances de Chantal.

She was beatified by Pope Benedict XIV on November 21, 1751, and canonized sixteen years later, on July 16, 1767 by Pope Clement XIII. O God, who made Saint Jane Frances de Chantal radiant with outstanding merits in different walks of life, grant us, through her intercession, that walking faithfully in our vocation, we may constantly be examples of shining light. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who reigns with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen.

Adapted excerpt from The Church's Year of Grace, Fr. Pius Parsch.

August 10, 2020

St. Clare of Assisi, Virgin and Foundress

Saint Clare of Assisi

Memorial - August 11th

As a young girl, Saint Clare, in defiance of her parent’s wishes, escaped from her home one night, intent on meeting up with a group of friars. They conducted her by torch-light to a small chapel where Saint Francis of Assisi gave her a rough brown habit in place of her fine dress. She surrendered her jeweled belt for a knotted rope, which she fastened around her waist. In a final act of devotion, she permitted St. Francis to cut her long hair, in order that she might take the veil.

A beautiful young Italian noblewoman, Clare was so moved by the preaching of Saint Francis of Assisi that she defied every convention of her privileged life to live the Gospel of Christ. One of St. Francis’ first and most ardent followers, she would become the foundress of the group of nuns known as the Second Order of St. Francis, more popularly, the Poor Clares. She did so despite great opposition. Her parents tried everything in their power to dissuade Clare from her vocation, but to no avail. In fact, eventually, two of Clare’s sisters and her widowed mother would follow her into consecrated life, joining the Second Order of St. Francis.

The nuns of the new religious Order were especially dedicated to extreme poverty and prayer. Secluded from the world, they went without shoes, slept on the ground and abstained from meat; subsiding only on the donations they received. The chapel of San Damiano, which St. Francis had repaired in response to God’s summons to “Rebuild my Church” — a command that Francis came to realize transcended the reconstruction of physical buildings — became the Mother House of the Poor Clares. In 1215, at the age of 21, Clare became the abbess of the Order, a position she exercised for the remainder of her life.

The Poor Clares held strictly to their commitment to poverty. When the pope suggested a Rule for the Order, which allowed for the ownership of property in common, St. Clare refused to adopt it. She is reported to have said in response to Pope Gregory IX, “Holy Father, I need to be absolved from my sins, but I do not wish to be absolved from my obligation of following Jesus Christ.”

Prayer was a cornerstone of the Poor Clares charism, of which, St. Clare was a perfect exemplar. Contemporary accounts said that her face virtually glowed when she came from her devotions. It was her prayer and faith that saved the sisters from a potentially brutal attack by the Saracens. Though very sick at the time of the near invasion, Clare brought a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament and placed it on the wall of the convent. She then prayed to God to deliver the sisters, and then told them to have complete faith in His will. They did, and the Saracens fled in fear and confusion.

Clare struggled with illness during the last 27 years of her life, but that did not prevent her from living out her passionate and heroic ideals.  She remained close to St. Francis until his death in 1226, although she apparently never left San Damiano, once she entered it.  From there, she exerted a remarkable influence on the cardinals, bishops and popes who sought her consultation and advice.

Saint Clare died peacefully of natural causes on August 11th, 1253. She was canonized two years after her death by Pope Alexander IV. She is the patroness of eye disorders and television among others. O God, who in your mercy led Saint Clare to a love of poverty, grant, through her intercession, that, following Christ in poverty of spirit, we may duly merit to contemplate you one day in the heavenly Kingdom. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns together, with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

August 9, 2020

Homily for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 16, 2020, Year A

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
La Salette Missionaries of North America
Hartford, Connecticut

The image is a familiar one: one or more dogs begging while you are at table, ready to pounce on whatever falls from the table, if not actively “demanding tribute,” as my brother’s Chihuahua “Rosy” does. Cute, if you like that sort of thing.

But there is nothing cute about the exchange between Jesus and the Canaanite woman in this Gospel. I once read an author, bent on finding humor in the Bible, who claimed that this was just a friendly little repartee, what Webster’s Dictionary describes as “amusing and usually light sparring with words.”  I couldn’t disagree more. The scene presented here by Matthew is no game of wits!

Let me digress briefly with a little trip down memory lane:

[Click on this link:] Kyrie eleison from the Missa de Angelis

The point isn’t the music, the Gregorian chant or any other classic settings. The point isn’t the Latin Mass vs. English. It isn’t even that “Kyrie eleison” isn’t Latin at all, but Greek.

What is the point? It’s that we find those very same Greek words in today’s Gospel, and the point is especially what they mean.

The woman says “Eleison me kyrie.” This is translated in the Lectionary as “Have pity on me, Lord,” but it means equally well, “Have mercy on me, Lord.” Now leave out the middle word, change the order and there you have it: Kyrie eleison—Lord, have mercy.

She knows that as a foreigner she really has no claim on the one she calls “Son of David.” That doesn’t stop her.

Maybe she’s stubborn by nature. Maybe she’s had a hard life and is used to fighting for what she wants. Personally, I think the simple answer is the best: she’s a mother. And even if she has to accept being insulted by a famous teacher and healer, she accepts it, for her daughter’s sake.

But there is another reason why she doesn’t hold back. Jesus recognizes it, tests it, praises it, and rewards it. It is her “great faith”! (This woman, by the way, is one of the two foreigners I alluded to last week who are described as having “great” faith in the Gospels.)

“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples,” we read in Isaiah. In this story we see a partial fulfillment of that prophecy. It’s no longer about a place, much less a single building situated in Jerusalem. It’s about Jesus and the community of believers gathered around him. It’s about the universal Church.

It seems everyone knows people who get in touch only when they need something. Often enough, however, that describes our prayer. The Canaanite woman might never have approached Jesus if her daughter hadn’t been sick. But in that moment, he saw her faith. and that was all that mattered. The same great faith that brought her to him in tears sent her back home to her daughter in grateful joy.

It is perfectly natural that we come to the Lord in our need. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “What do you possess that you have not received? But if you have received it, why are you boasting as if you did not receive it?”

When we look at ourselves, and at our needs, and at what we actually deserve, and then we come to Jesus, what are we if not beggars at the Lord’s table?

No wonder we cry “Lord, have mercy!” at the beginning of every Mass! After that, however, reassured of his love, we are in a position to fulfill the other line in Isaiah’s prophecy where God predicts, “I will make them joyful in my house of prayer.”

Reflection for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Christ and the Canaanite Woman

Fr. Jean d'Elbee

Jesus needs nothing but your humility and your confidence to work marvels of purification and sanctification in you. And your confidence will be in proportion to your humility, because it is to the extent that we realize our need of Jesus that we have recourse to Him, and we sense this need to the extent that we justly realize our unworthiness.

Think of the woman of Canaan: she is a pagan, a foreigner. She asks Jesus to cure her daughter who is possessed by a demon. Jesus lets her see that since He has come for the lost sheep of Israel, He has nothing to do with her. Humbly she accepts this, which is the truth, but confidently she insists, 'Lord, come to my aid.' And Jesus shows Himself to be apparently even harder. Often He acts in this way with souls to whom He wishes to grant a high place in His love, in order to test their faith. He answers her, 'The bread of the children is not to be thrown to the dogs.' The Canaanite woman then finds, in her humble confidence, this exquisitely appropriate response: 'That is true, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master's table.' She asks no more than a crumb at the banquet of merciful love! Jesus is conquered.

'O woman, great is your faith; be it done to you as you will': Fiat tibi sicut vis. (Matthew 15:28)

Collect Prayer

O God, who have prepared for those who love you good things which no eye can see, fill our hearts, we pray, with the warmth of your love, so that, loving you in all things and above all things, we may attain your promises, which surpass every human desire. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

August 8, 2020

Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 9, 2020, Year A

Jesus lifting Peter out of the water

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

Watching TV news reports night after night can lead us into despondency to the point where we might lose our faith in the basic goodness in our world that seems to be buried alive in the tidal waves of the evils that are reported. Over and over again we are confronted by the actions and inactions of our government in Washington. Instead of concrete corrections we hear nothing but the blame game going on between our nation’s leaders. Added that that are the endless reports of violence in our cities, the horrors inflicted by terrorists in the Middle East, the sufferings of children from Latin America that are crossing our borders in order to escape the violence they face caused by the drug lords in their home countries, and the sufferings of people in the Ukraine. I could go on and on but won’t. We know we’re drowning in chaos. We know we are carrying heave burdens.

“Where is God in the midst of all of this?” some ask.

Today’s first reading presents us with the Old Testament prophet Elijah likewise in a state of despondency. Three days prior to the episode we just now heard in today’s first reading he was so miserable that he asking God to let him die. We find him here in this reading hiding in a cave, seeking shelter in solid rock. But just as he finds shelter in a cave along comes an earthquake and then a hurricane of a storm that smashes the rocks and cliffs of the mountains, threatening to drown him in chaos.

“Where is God in all of this?” he was asking. What is God saying to me in all of these events? Elijah, however, couldn’t figure anything out until he was able to hear the voice of God in a tiny little whisper. The voice of God came to him in the most unexpected of ways. And so it is with us.

The disciples and Peter found themselves to be in similar circumstances, only this time out in an open boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee in a raging storm. “Where is God in all of this?” they wondered. Peter spoke up and said, “Lord, if it’s really you over there tell me to come to you across the water.” Peter, we see, had his doubts.

We find our own lives these days surrounded by chaos. The floodwaters of social change along with the cultural earthquakes of our times, globalization, terrorism, and the energy crisis severely threaten us. Only one in four of our nation’s households today have the typical arrangement of mom and dad living together in the same home with their children. Stated another way, only one in four children find themselves in typical, traditional homes. Indeed the very definition of the so-called normal family is at issue. What do we mean by the term “normal family”? A recent newspaper article dumbs everything down and defines family as: “The we around me.” What, I ask, has that anything to do with being family?

Drugs, AIDS, absent fathers, divorce, an unstable economy, job loss, and a surrounding culture that’s alien and hostile to the normal family are the storms and floodwaters that threaten us. Child abuse, pornography, sexual wantonness, and a blatant media exploitation of sex, violence, and lust for money assault the moral characters of our youngsters, washing away the levees that protect what we have regarded in the past as the terra firma, the solid ground of normalcy.

Teenage suicide is frequently reported; teen gangs and drug gangs roam our city streets at will, while our metropolitan law enforcement agencies operate in apparent powerlessness to take back control of our cities from the pimps, prostitutes, pushers, and gangs that control the streets of our major cities.

“Where is God in all of this?” we cry.

Confidence is the word we need to take into our hearts and souls today. Confidence. Confidence comes from a Latin word; it means, “to believe with”. We cannot have confidence when we’re isolated and all alone. We cannot have confidence all by ourselves. No, we can only have confidence when there’s an Other near us, the Other that is God.

And that’s the point of today’s readings. One can find confidence, even in the worst of storms, even in the most chaotic of times. You can go through the worst that life can throw at you if only you keep up your contact with God. No prayer? No confidence. Stop coming to Mass? No confidence. Not sharing in the life of the Church, in the Body of Christ? No confidence. Soon you’ll take your eyes off of Jesus, and just like Peter, you will sink. Soon you’ll only be able to hear the screaming wind, the awful noise, and the deafening roar of the storms and winds in or world that shake the very foundations of your life. And without the voice of God and the eyes of Jesus to hold you steady, we, like Peter, will either be blown away or drown.

Is your life getting out of control? Is your faith slipping away from you? Are you experiencing more and more powerlessness in the chaos that surrounds you? If so, here’s what you do. Find a place of solitude and silence. Go to your room, shut your door and gather around you as much silence and solitude as you possibly can. Then kneel down by your bedside and in that silence and in that solitude say: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” If you do that, you’ll be in exactly the same position that Elijah was. Look into the eyes of Jesus, you’ll be in exactly the same position that Peter was.

Never forget, after all was said and done, God restored Elijah in power, and eventually swept him up into heaven. And after all was said and done God in Christ saved Peter, saved him even from himself.

And God will do no less for us, if and only if we give our confidence to Christ and remain faith-full to our Father in Him. And I’d suspect that a whole lot of people living amidst violence and chaos would tell us just that, facing as they have the much different and far more destructive floodwaters that we face here.

The real question, you see is not “Is God absent from us.” Rather the real question is: “Are we absent from God?”

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light, Jesus said. For that to happen, for our hearts to be filled with courage, fortitude, and boldness, we need to be yoked to Christ so that He can, along with us, pull our load through life.

May you be filled with that confidence.

August 4, 2020

Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ | 2020

August 6th, is the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord. It was declared a universal feast by Pope Callixtus III in 1456 to commemorate the victory of Christian forces at the Siege of Belgrade. The Transfiguration is found in all three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 17:1–9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28–36 describe it, and 2 Peter 1:16–18 refers to it). It is the only miracle involving Jesus exclusively. Prefiguring His Ascension and manifesting His Divinity, Jesus, is transfigured, becoming resplendent in glory upon Mt. Tabor. At that moment, Christ's interior Divinity and Beatific soul overflowed His body, so that Jesus shone as bright as the sun. The apostles Peter, who according to Aquinas, loved Jesus the most, James, who was the first of the Apostles to die for his faith, and John, who the Lord loved especially, were the only eyewitnesses. From the Gospel of Mark:
Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him. "Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them (Mark 9:2-8). 
The Transfiguration is a pivotal event in Jesus' life and ministry. The words of God the Father, "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him." are a further revelation of the identity of Jesus as the Son of God and evoke the Father's words at Jesus' Baptism. The significance of this identification is enhanced by the presence of Elijah and Moses. Jesus is the voice of God par excellence, not Elijah (who represents the prophets) or Moses (who represents the law). Jesus is the preeminent moral authority that should be listened to, surpassing the law of Moses by virtue of his filial relationship with the Father. The Transfiguration embodies Jesus as the one in whom human nature meets God: the union of the temporal and the eternal, with Christ as the bridge between Heaven and earth.

This great Theophany anticipates the Resurrection of Christ in his glorified body. Saint Thomas Aquinas called the Transfiguration "the greatest miracle" because it complemented baptism and showed the perfection of life in Heaven. O God, who in the glorious Transfiguration of your Only Begotten Son confirmed the mysteries of faith by the witness of the Fathers and wonderfully prefigured our full adoption to sonship, grant, we pray, to your servants, that, in listening to the voice of your beloved Son, we may merit to become co-heirs with Him.

August 2, 2020

Reflection for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Christ Saves Peter from Drowning, August 9, 2020

Jesus saves Peter from drowning

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a; Psalm 85; Romans 9:1-5,
Matthew 14:22-33

“Lord, save me!” (Mt 14:31)

Imagine the scene. You are one of the disciples whom Jesus has sent out to sea on a boat. While out there, a storm kicks up and rocks the boat. It is dark. In the distance, you see what looks like the silhouette of a person walking toward you. As the person nears the boat, you realize it is Jesus! And He is walking on top of the water! “Take courage,” He says, “it is I!” Peter, overwhelmed with emotion at this scene, asks the Lord to allow him to walk on the water, which Jesus allows. Peter, of course, becomes frightened. Jesus asks, “Why did you doubt?” Falling in, he calls out to Jesus, who saves him.

The story for this weekend’s Gospel as recounted above is the classic journey of faith. That journey often involves three steps: loving Jesus, faltering due to human imperfection, and calling out to the Lord. So, (1) Peter obviously loved Jesus, then (2) he doubted and then faltered, but then did the greatest thing of all. When he realized he faltered, he yelled out, (3) “Lord, save me!” Isn’t that what faith is all about? Peter’s call to Jesus is the call each of us should make when we realize we cannot go it alone.

First, it is clear that Peter loved Jesus. Peter left behind his fishing boat and career and followed Jesus unreservedly. Jesus was an itinerant preacher whose acceptance in society and among religious authorities was questioned. It is evident that Peter was overwhelmed with grace in His presence and was inspired to follow Him. Peter was filled with passion, zeal, and love for the Lord.

The modern Christian is called to love the Lord in the same way. Our faith is to be passionate! Following the Lord is the first priority of one’s life. While we might not be called to leave it all behind as Peter did, we are called to love the Lord with the same passion and zeal, each in our own individual vocation, calling, and context.

While Peter’s love was almost palpable, he also stumbled, both in this particular story and in others throughout the Gospels. He had a tendency to blurt out the wrong thing at the wrong time, denied he ever knew Jesus, and, at times, faltered in his belief, as found here. Like us, Peter is human to the core. Even with his faults, Jesus appointed him the Rock, and it is clear from the Acts of Apostles that Peter led the early Church. With all of his human foibles, Jesus saw something special in Peter. He knew his gifts and what he could accomplish. In Peter, the rest of us can take solace. Jesus loved Peter and called him to do great things; He loves you and me in our humanity and calls us in the same way. That’s how much He loves us!

Finally, Peter gives the Church a great example of what to do when he faltered: he yells out, “Lord, save me!” Those might be the three words each of us should make our personal motto. Peter’s overall love for the Lord helps him understand that only Jesus could save him. His faith in Jesus ran deep, and in the depths of his heart and soul he knew Jesus would save him. Indeed, He did save him and help him.

In the journey of faith, do we know that Jesus will save us? This implies that the person has a deep love for Christ that will show itself in faith. Jesus will save us. There is nothing to fear. The modern person has such a hard time understanding and believing in the power of God. Why does that happen? In many ways, Peter’s faith is childlike. And childlike faith is the faith Jesus wants in each of us. We allow the need for control and pride to creep into our faith, making it much more complicated than need be. Faith is simple. Love Jesus and know He will save you. Peter had that kind of faith, that is clear. You and I are called to that same level of faith.

It is necessary that the human person peel back that which makes faith complicated. In prayer, the person asks the Lord to be free of the need of control and pride that keeps us from that simple faith that Peter expressed in this Gospel reading. Peter knew the Lord would save him. While human, he loved Jesus passionately and knew what Jesus would do for him. He saved him. Let’s all pray for the same faith as Peter!

July 30, 2020

The Portiuncula Indulgence of the Forgiveness of Assisi is Available on August 2nd [Plenary Indulgence]

Dominican cross

"Francis you are very zealous for the good of souls." 

The Portiuncula indulgence can be gained on August 2nd, or in remote areas of the world where Mission Chapels are not open during the week, the first Sunday of August. We owe this indulgence to the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi. In the year 513, four hermits came to Italy and built a small chapel in the vicinity of Assisi. The Benedictines named it the Portiuncula Church and administered it until the 13th century. St. Francis beseeched the Benedictine Abbot to let his Order have the church. Over time, the Portiuncula Church was enlarged and beautified.

The miraculous origin of the Portiuncula indulgence is as follows. Jesus, Mary and a host of angels appeared to St. Francis. Jesus said to him, "Francis you are very zealous for the good of souls. Ask me what you want for their salvation." Francis replied "Lord, I a miserable sinner beg You to concede an indulgence to all those who enter this church, who are truly contrite and have confessed their sins. And I beg Blessed Mary, your Mother, intercessor of man, that she intercede on behalf of this grace." Jesus granted Francis' petition for the indulgence and told him to ask Pope Honorius III to sanction it. (This occurred in the Portiuncula Chapel.)

The indulgence may be gained as often as one wishes (i.e. visits to the church). It is applicable to oneself or the souls in purgatory.

Requirements for Gaining the Portiuncula Indulgence

Devoutly visit the parochial (i.e. parish) church on August 2nd.
◗ Say one "Our Father" and the "Apostles Creed".
◗ Say one "Our Father" and one "Hail Mary" for the Holy Father’s intentions (the intentions designated by the Holy Father each month).
◗ Make a sacramental confession within 20 days.
◗ For a plenary indulgence, be free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin (or the indulgence is partial, not plenary).

Prayer for St. Francis of Assisi's Intercession

O God, by whose gift Saint Francis was conformed to the Lord in poverty and humility, grant that, by walking in Francis' footsteps, we may follow your Son, and, through joyful charity, come to be united with you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who reigns with you, and in the unity of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

July 27, 2020

The Church Fathers on the Feeding of the Multitude

He multiplied in his hands the five loaves, just as he produces harvest out of a few grains. There was a power in the hands of Christ; and those five loaves were, as it were, seeds, not indeed committed to the earth, but multiplied by him who made the earth.

— Augustine 

For although the Lord had the power to supply wine to those feasting, independently of any created substance, and to fill with food those who were hungry, he did not adopt this course; but, taking the loaves which the earth had produced, and giving thanks, and on the other occasion making water wine, he satisfied those who were reclining (at table), and gave drink to those who had been invited to the marriage; showing that the God who made the earth, and commanded it to bring forth fruit, who established the waters, and brought forth the fountains, was he who in these last times bestowed upon mankind, by his Son, the blessing of food and the favor of drink: the incomprehensible [acting thus] by means of the comprehensible, and the invisible by the visible; since there is none beyond him, but he exists in the bosom of the Father.

— Irenaeus 

He called his disciples, and asked what quantity of food they had with them. But they said that they had five loaves and two fishes in a wallet. . . . He himself broke the bread in pieces, and divided the flesh of the fishes, and in his hands both of them were increased. And when he had ordered the disciples to set them before the people, 5,000 men were satisfied, and moreover 12 baskets were filled from the fragments which remained. What can be more wonderful, either in narration or in action?

— Lactantius 

The feeding of the multitudes in the desert by Christ is worthy of all admiration. But it is also profitable in another way. We can plainly see that these new miracles are in harmony with those of ancient times. They are the acts of one and the same power. He rained manna in the desert upon the Israelites. He gave them bread from heaven. "Man did eat angels’ food," according to the words of praise in the Psalms. But look! He has again abundantly supplied food to those who needed food in the desert. He brought it down, as it were, from heaven. Multiplying that small amount of food many times and feeding so large a multitude, so to speak, with nothing, is like that first miracle.

— Cyril of Alexandria

He (multiplies loaves) not only once but also a second time, in order that we should know his strength. This strength by which he feeds the multitudes when he wishes and without bread finds its source in his divinity. He does this in order to bring them to believe that he himself is the one who earlier had fed Israel for 40 years in the wilderness. And Jesus not only fed them with a few loaves of bread, but he even produced a surplus of seven baskets, so that he might be shown as incomparably surpassing Elijah, who himself also caused a multiplication of the widow’s small quantity of oil and flour.

 — Theodore of Heraclea

The Miraculous Feeding of the 5000 | Matthew 14

This Sunday's gospel story from Matthew, the feeding of the 5,000, is the only miracle (besides the Resurrection) recounted in all four gospels. As such, its significance cannot be overstated. It portrays Jesus as the New Moses who will lead fallen humanity to salvation. When the miracle of the multiplication of loaves is told in the Gospel of John, it is related to the manna in the wilderness. The connection between Moses and Jesus, the manna and the miraculous bread is undeniable.

The feeding of the 5,000, is a kind of corporate (i.e. community) Eucharist. Upon hearing of the death of John the Baptist, Jesus withdrew privately by boat somewhere near Bethsaida. Christ’s healing ministry and preaching had made him renowned. Consequently, large crowds followed him. When Jesus landed and saw them, he was filled with compassion and healed their sick. As evening fell, the disciples came to Jesus saying, "This is a remote place, and it's getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food." The disciples were thinking in human terms about the people’s hunger. Jesus’ reply, "Give them some food yourselves." must have seemed nonsensical. Consider also that the number 5,000 excludes women and children. The real total to be fed was between 10,000 – 20,000.

The disciples find a young boy with five loaves and two fish. These they give to Jesus who takes the loaves and fish, gives thanks, (In the Septuagint the Greek word for "thanks" used here is eucharistia, meaning of thanksgiving, or praise for the wondrous works of God. The word "Eucharist" is a transliteration of the Greek.) and presents them to the disciples to distribute among the people. When they had had their fill, Jesus said to his disciples, "Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted." So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.

The feeding of the 5000 was an event in which Christ’s actions reflect that He is the New Moses and more. In so doing, it parallels the story of Moses and the Israelites found in the book of Exodus profoundly. Just as the exodus from Egypt begins with Pharaoh oppressing the Israelites, the Gospel account starts with Herod’s murder of John the Baptist. While Pharaoh oppresses the Israelites because they were so numerous, Herod kills John because of his moral stance. Hearing of John’s death, Jesus journeys to “a deserted place”. Jesus, His disciples and the people gathered there were in a “desert” just as Moses and the Israelites were in Sinai. When the Israelites were in the desert, God fed them with manna and quail. While the multitude were in the wilderness with Jesus, our Lord fed them with bread and fish.

The miracle of the multiplication of loaves is unequivocally about the Eucharist. At Mass we bring the fruits of human labors, bread and wine, in conjunction with the offering of our ordinary lives to the altar. Through the invocation of the Holy Spirit this offering is miraculously transformed into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. The bread which Jesus “took…blessed…and broke” (Matthew 14:19) – was an “icon” for the early Christians of the Eucharist in which we receive the Son of God our Savior, the Bread of life.