The Readings for the Solemnity of
the Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ (C2)
He said to them, “Give them some food yourselves.”Luke 9:13 (NABRE)
WHEN THE DISCIPLES went to Jesus it was with all good intentions. There’s a whole bunch of people here, nothing to eat. We should do something. In most cultures, if people come to you you are the host and the host is expected to provide something. This is not an imposition, this is the Law of Hospitality, and it doesn’t really matter where you are: leaving somebody hungry is just bad form, Old Bean. The disciples (and Jesus) know that no town in the area has enough food to sell to feed all these people. But if you send them all away, they all probably know someone in the area and the Law of Hospitality will apply. Everyone will get something somewhere.
Jesus says, in effect, they are our guests, let us feed them. Of course the challenge to do something impossible is troublesome to the disciples. Eating people is always a risk. Will they like my food? Do I have enough? Will I like them? Will they be worthy of my food? These are questions any host may ask in their own home or, perhaps, if they work in food service, these questions may get asked at work. These questions often get asked in charity work as well. And certainly one of the Works of Mercy is to feed the hungry. Jesus is asking his disciples here to feed the hungry, to become the hosts of this party he’s gathered.
Did you ever think of Church as this heavenly party to which Jesus has invited everyone and for which we are the hosts? There are those who take this reading from Luke (and other “feeding” passages) as a sign that the Holy Communion should be given to everyone without question. This gathering on the Mountainside was not a Holy Mass however. You cannot read this to be “rules for communion” at all. Yet you can read this as being about Church. People have come together to hear the teaching of the Lord. We are the disciples in that image! Jesus says to us “you give them something”.
We know that from RCIA class to the monthly Mens Club, there’s no good meeting without food! But in those cases we feed ourselves: we draw from our own members, arrange pot lucks, assign people to rotas, etc. That’s not hospitality, really. That’s what any good family does for the monthly budget. We can spend a certain amount to feed ourselves. The disciples have a collective purse for themselves. (Judas carries it, remember?) But there’s not enough in the purse for this crowd of people!
What do we do when a crowd of The Unexpected show up at the door, needing Jesus and food?
Depending on where you live, this crowd of people is probably beating down your door on a near-daily basis. They need food and Jesus. We can’t give them Jesus only: what will they do in their hunger but despise us?
This is where we (the hosts) have to turn to Jesus. We bring what we have and ask him to make it enough. Our outreach depends on your charity, but not on your charity only, for we have to offer everything to God and let him make it enough.
I just finished reading a wonderful book for a class in Christology: Atonement by Dr Margaret Turek. There’s a lot of good stuff there and I have a paper due on it this week so I’m not going to get too far into the book today. However, in one of the appendices, Formation of Missionary Disciples, there is a passage of interest for us today. She writes (following Balthasar and Pope BXVI), “If the action of missionary disciples is to be effective as a sign and an instrument of God’s saving love, it is not enough to attempt to imitate God by standing in social solidarity with the poor, the stranger, and the oppressed. Neither the wife of the Trinity nor the Life of Christ is to be regarded as a mere Paradigm to guide programs of social and political involvement.” (p. 243)
We’re not doing a social program here: Church outreach to the poor is not a replacement for any political or societal reform movements. Everything we have comes from God and nothing he has given us is for ourselves – but for others. A mother’s life is not her own – it is for her child. A parents income is not their own, it is for the family. A doctor’s work is not for himself, but for others. The military are not only guarding their own family, their own neighborhoods, but all of us. God has configured us to pour ourselves out precisely for others. Charity is exemplifying the life of Christ in, if you will, an economic form. We are the Body of Christ given for the life of the world.
Dr Turek continues, ” The crucial factor, for Balthasar, is that Christian action participates in God’s own life of Trinitarian love. Christ, through his Incarnation and the bestowal of his Spirit, imparts to us a participation in the Divine freedom of his sonship, by virtue of which we are made capable of taking part in his trinitarian mission.”
When we partake of the Body of Christ, we are committing ourselves to being Jesus in the world. Like Jesus, then, all our life must be for others in praise of Our Father. All our money, all our food, comes from God and is poured out for others. We are brought into the Body of Christ and – in order to live like Jesus in the world – we must be for others. They may like (or not) what we have to offer, but we have to offer it! We may be able to vote a certain way to change societal structures, but that’s not the Gospel. The gospel is give, give, give, give yourself, give everything you have, give. Then die, just like Jesus did.
How’s that for a punch line?
Jesus takes our “All”, offered to him in love, and makes it so much more. When we engage in the dance of the Trinity, we become the open channels of the Trinity’s love for the world around us. Thus, not by some social or political action, but just in our daily lives, the action of God is made manifest in the lives of our neighbors. But we don’t do this to “help” them. Feeding the hungry is not only just to feed them. Church is not a social program, nor is outreach only a substitute for better school lunches and more federal aid. We do this precisely to draw them in to the same dance.
If I only feed your body – but not your soul – I’ve not been a good host.
If I only try to feed your soul – when you and your family are starving – then I’ve not been a good host.
If I try to force-feed you Jesus – when what you need is a good lunch – then I’ve not been a good host.
But if I only give you lunch – when all men need Jesus – then I’ve not fulfilled the action of a Missionary Disciple. I’ve not invited you into the dance of the Trinity which is the only thing that will keep you whole until eternal life. I’ve brought you to the Heavenly Party and left you sitting at the Kids Table in the kitchen.
Don’t dismiss the crowd! Rejoice that God has called them to himself through you. Give you life for them.
When Jesus says, “Give them something yourselves” he is challenging us to realize: all we have comes from him. Give it all away and there will be enough. But he will make it to be something more. We must give him away too. All we have is never enough without him.