Let’s drill in on today’s Gospel.
Specifically, why did Jesus ask the Apostles to provide food?
First, of course, Philip says, it’s impossible.
Next, Andrew finds a boy with his own lunch – a meager offering.
And this, I think, is the key: Jesus wanted something offered.
As you know, I’m doing a series of homilies
about the Mass and the Eucharist.
Last week the focus was on how full and intense
is the unity with Christ that comes in Holy Communion.
Holy Communion is union.
This Sunday, my focus is on sacrifice.
For there to be a sacrifice, something must be brought and offered.
In the Old Testament, it was lambs, bulls, or fruit of the harvest.
When it comes to the New Testament sacrifice,
the essential offering is Jesus himself,
the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
On Calvary, on Good Friday, this is true: Jesus offers himself.
But this episode in the Gospel is looking beyond Good Friday,
to the Holy Mass – as we call it –
that would be offered day by day until he comes again.
That’s why Jesus is going to talk about bread!
Bread – and wine – aren’t needed for Good Friday.
But they are needed for the Mass, which is the extension of Calvary.
And, the bread and wine – when changed by the Holy Spirit –
are how you and I receive the flesh and blood of the Passover Lamb.
As the people who Jesus fed in today’s Gospel will say, later,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
The answer – the only answer – is the sacrifice of the Mass,
Which the Apostles and priests after them were to offer.
So, to be clear: in this episode, the people received ordinary bread,
which Jesus had miraculously increased in quantity.
This is not yet the Holy Eucharist, which will come after Calvary;
but this is a foreshadowing of what would come.
Still, some might point to today’s Gospel and say,
see, Jesus gave to everyone! That’s how Holy Communion should be!
But notice, many of the assembled people weren’t ready.
They wanted to make Jesus an earthly king;
and when he later explains that, in the Eucharist,
they would eat his flesh and drink his blood,
many were offended and even left him.
So let’s ask: how can it be good for people
to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, if they don’t believe?
And in fact, it is harmful, which is what we’ve always believed:
to receive the Holy Eucharist without faith, or in a state of mortal sin,
is a sacrilege and that, itself, is also a mortal sin.
Saint Paul described it as eating and drinking “damnation” for oneself!
This is why it is so important to go to confession
before coming to Holy Communion,
if you are aware of having committed a mortal sin.
So let me make this point. Sometimes someone you know
may be at Mass and choose not to go to communion.
Please, please don’t ask any questions.
You may think it’s helpful to ask what’s going on,
but that’s a very private matter and it’s better to leave it alone.
One key thing we must believe before receiving Holy Communion,
is precisely that you and I are taking part in a real, true sacrifice.
The Mass truly and really is united to the sacrifice of Calvary;
they are one and the same.
And now let’s connect what we talked about last Sunday:
You and I are becoming ONE with Jesus, truly, really one.
This begins in baptism, and is the point of all the sacraments.
So when Jesus offers himself, who is also on the altar?
You are! I am!
Later in Mass the priest says, “Pray, brothers and sisters,
that your sacrifice and mine may be acceptable…”
It is your sacrifice; and it is my sacrifice.
But not bread and wine, but rather, what they will become:
Jesus himself! Jesus, the Lamb of God!
So take this seriously: you and I must put ourselves on the altar!
Let me speak personally here.
The pope’s decision a week ago to restrict greatly
the Traditional Latin Mass
caused me a lot of hurt and discouragement,
as I know it did many other people.
I’m getting so many questions and I’m sorry,
I can’t explain the pope’s thinking,
beyond what he, himself, has said.
I don’t want to make surmises
about any other motives he may have had.
But what occurred to me is that this is a share in the Cross.
Remember, the Cross is unfair; it is undeserved;
and many people find the pope’s action very unfair. Me included.
So what did Jesus do when he was treated unfairly? Say, “I quit?”
No: he offered that unfairness to the Father,
confident he would be vindicated.
I don’t know how all this will play out, but the only answer
is to unite ourselves more fully to Jesus on the Cross.
You and I can be confident that God will recognize
and reward those who are obedient – like Jesus –
even in great unfairness. Out of his Cross comes life for others,
and we become that life for others by our own embrace of the Cross.
And remember, if we unite ourselves to Jesus in his death,
we will be with him, all the way to heaven! That’s the plan.