To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 14:18-20; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Lk 9:11b-17
The placement of the pericope on the feeding of the five thousand in Luke is in an extremely significant position and this must be understood if the significance of the miracle is to be understood in its entirety. Immediately after Jesus sends his disciples out on mission, Luke inserts the question that Herod asks about Jesus’ identity. This is followed by the return of the twelve, the feeding of the five thousand and a repetition of the question of Jesus’ identity. The placement of these incidents in this order is to indicate that Christology and mission, proclaiming Christ and doing what he would have done are wedded as two sides of the same reality. Jesus’ identity is revealed in what he is and does and what he calls others to be and do. By the same token, those who desire to see and know who Jesus is will see and know him only if they respond to his call to preach the gospel, heal the sick, and feed the hungry. This forms the background for the meaning of the text and also for the meaning of the feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ, the Eucharist.
The Eucharist which is often relegated to the level of the ritual was never meant to be merely that. The blessing at the end of the ritual states that those who have partaken of the Eucharist are sent forth to love and serve just as Jesus loved and served. The disciples are thus always expected to go beyond the ritual and take the Eucharist to the world. This is why when Jesus saw the crowds following him, he not only welcomed them, spoke about the kingdom of God but also healed and cured those who needed to be made whole. Not content with that, Jesus further ordered his disciples that the crowds be fed with bread that the disciples were expected to provide. He then shows them how. The sequence of scenes in Luke suggests the deeper meaning of the feeding: Because Jesus fed the multitude; his disciples saw that he was God’s anointed one. This combination of the feeding of the five thousand and Peter’s confession in Luke suggests that the recognition of Jesus as the Christ of God is linked to his action of reaching out to feed the hungry. It is also a signal of what the Eucharist is really meant to be.
Thus the Body of Christ today cannot be restricted to the bread and wine that is broken and shared on the altar. It is also made up of the community who participate in this act. The second reading of today makes precisely this point. The “remembrance” to which the Corinthian community and those who partake in the Eucharist are called is not merely to a past event but to making the past present. The narrated history in the Eucharist becomes also the history of the partakers. The past of the event becomes their present. When they do this they begin to “proclaim” even in the present the Lord’s death until he comes. This means that they live out fully the implications of partaking in the body of Christ. Their faith makes itself known through who they become and what they do. This faith which is alive and active manifests itself to others and makes an impact on them. Others want to know what it is about the Christian community that makes them what they are and gives them the motivation for what they do. The Eucharist, by what it remembers and proclaims, scans the whole story of redemption in Christ and repeats for the believers the true scope and setting of the life they are called to live together. Every time believers take part in the supper of the Lord, they relive God’s story as revealed in the Christ event. If they live it as they should, their very lives will become a fitting proclamation of the gospel to the world. Therefore, the Eucharist is communion in a double sense: It is the most intimate sharing and participation with Christ, but that communion with Christ is already also the sharing in and with other believers who by definition are also those “in Christ.” The Eucharist is thus both personal and communal, inextricably. While on the one hand each individual receives the whole body of Christ, on the other hand the whole community gathered together in faith also receives the whole body and becomes that body.
In a sense therefore, the Eucharist never ends. It goes on and on. As the identity of Jesus was revealed after the feeding of the five thousand, an act which shows concern, compassion and empathy so will the identity of believers be revealed not merely when they receive the body of Christ at the ritual but when they who have received the body of Christ become also that Body. They do this by going out like Christ into the world and daring to become bread for everyone they meet.