Luke 9:11b-17
The Sacrament of Love by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Luke writes to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.

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.

The opportunity to attend a training conference for youth ministry in Arizona came my way some years ago.  In the middle of the week, we took a day trip to visit the Grand Canyon.  The five hour drive was interrupted by a stop in Sedona to see the red rock formations including Cathedral Rock.  They were gorgeous, but I had my mind set on the Grand Canyon.  As we approached Grand Canyon National Park, my expectation level rose dramatically.  As soon as we arrived, I got out of the car and practically ran to the overlook.  The sun was beginning to set and the colors reflecting off the rocks were mesmerizing.  I looked down and the Colorado River looked like a small thread because it was a mile below.  The distances to various rock formations in the canyon, including the main wall on the opposite side, were literally dizzying.  The grandeur of the whole scene was breathtaking.  I remember being overwhelmed by a strong sense that my mind was not able to grasp the fullness of the beauty that I gazing upon.  The beauty was just too marvelous for my mind to process.

I was later struck by some musings about the manager of the local snack shop.  I wondered if he comes to the shop everyday, orders his supplies, manages his staff, greets his customers, but in the midst of his daily routine fails to look with awe upon the majesty of the canyon.  It can be so easy sometimes to take for granted the beauty of God and His gifts.

This Sunday the Church celebrates the solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  The Church gives us the opportunity to stop from the craze of our frantic lives, and ponder with new eyes the most precious gift of the Eucharist, the sacrament of love.  The Church invites us to recall the mystery that Christ becomes truly present to us, body and blood, soul and divinity, in the Eucharist.  She invites us to worship Christ, adore Him, enter into communion with Him, and proclaim His goodness to the whole world as we walk in procession with Him through our neighborhoods.

In a sense, the Eucharist is similar to the Grand Canyon.  As a mystery, the beauty of the Eucharist is impossible to fully grasp.  Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the Father, in the moment in which He sacrificed His innocent life for our sins by offering Himself to the Father, descends upon the altars of our Catholic churches.  He comes to us to be our nourishment for the journey, to apply His redemptive work to our lives, and to enter into a union of love with His faithful disciples.  What a wonderful gift of love.

Our gospel this Sunday recounts the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and is similar to my visit to Sedona on the way to the canyon.  The miraculous feeding of the crowd is an appropriate prelude to something much more wonderful, the miraculous gift of Christ Himself in the Eucharist.  It teaches us that Jesus' desire to nourish His exhausted, hungry flock with bread and fish was a foreshadowing of His desire to spiritually nourish the whole world with His own Body and Blood.  The first miracle pointed to a far greater one.  Only God can satisfy the soul.  In His wisdom and love, the Father crafted an amazing, humble way to do so until the end of time.

May the Church's celebrations this weekend help us, in union with the Holy Spirit, to appreciate with deeper faith the profound mystery and unfathomable love given to us at the Last Supper by our Lord, Jesus Christ.  May we never imitate the manager of the local snack shop at the Grand Canyon and fail to stand (or kneel) in awe of the beauty of the Eucharist.  May we long to come often and be nourished at the table of God's Word and of His precious Body and Blood.

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