Gospel – Luke 9:11-17
Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God,
and he healed those who needed to be cured.
As the day was drawing to a close,
the Twelve approached him and said,
“Dismiss the crowd
so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms
and find lodging and provisions;
for we are in a deserted place here.”
He said to them, “Give them some food yourselves.”
They replied, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have,
unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.”
Now the men there numbered about five thousand.
Then he said to his disciples,
“Have them sit down in groups of about fifty.”
They did so and made them all sit down.
Then taking the five loaves and the two fish,
and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing over them, broke them,
and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.
They all ate and were satisfied.
And when the leftover fragments were picked up,
they filled twelve wicker baskets.
Reflection on the Gospel
Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.
We are in danger of zoning out when we witness oft repeated gestures. One such gesture is to take, bless, break, and give; Jesus performed this gesture several times during his life, including in today’s Gospel and the feast of the Lord’s Supper. It is no wonder that we value the blessing of food before the meal as we gather as a community of faith. Whether we remember this important gesture during the celebration of the Mass or every time we break action to eat with another, we might remember a few things whenever repeating this gesture:
1. Jesus sacrificed his own body and blood for us;
2. there are many unsung heroes who produce, transport, and prepare the food and drink
that most of us enjoy several times a day;
3. there are many malnourished people who suffer due to lack of healthy food.
The Christian tradition is filled with martyrs, from John the Baptist to 21st century religious workers in Latin America, Africa, and Asia (I find Robert Ellsberg’s entries in Give Us This Day and Blessed Among Us very helpful; see also biographies in the Social Justice Resource Center). On the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, it behooves us to remember those offering their body and blood for the Gospel today. Because the first, second, and third readings utilize images of bread and food, it behooves us to reflect on and remind listeners to our homilies that all kinds of workers in our food system suffer from unfair wages and labor conditions. Catholic Rural Life reports:
…The work conditions and living situation of farm workers have long been a concern of the Church. They are among the most vulnerable and exploited people in our land. Their demeaning situation demands a response from people of faith. Besides workers in the fields, there are millions of more workers in food processing, distribution and food services – and who receive such low wages that they must work long hours or take two jobs to make a minimal living. A living wage for agricultural and food workers could help them and their families live a just and decent life, help to stabilize the workforce, and stimulate rural and low-income communities without significantly impacting food prices….
And will anyone raise the fact that small farmers are losing money hand over foot over floods and droughts brought upon by climate change and sales losses due to tariff wars with China and now Mexico? Because the first, second, and third readings all utilize images of bread and food, it behooves us to reflect on and remind listeners to our homilies that 50 percent of the world’s people do not have a reliable source of food and are hungry some or all of the time and 30 percent suffer from malnutrition; over 1.5 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day and cannot feed themselves; and every day, 18,000 children under age five die from hunger and diseases related to poor nutrition (see Social Justice Resource Center, “Hunger Facts & Figures”).
As Dorothy Day once said, “Peace begins when the hungry are fed.”
Steve is a Norbertine brother from De Pere, Wisconsin. Besides writing about the ethics of food, he loves to garden! He is employed by as an archivist for the Diocese of Green Bay and an executive assistant for the Bay Area Community Council.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle – Pray for us.
Live, Jesus, in our hearts – Forever.