The following homily was delivered by Father Christopher O'Connor, President of the Theological Institute, at the recent Co-Workers in the Vineyard Conference.
Have you heard the one about the little girl who kept interjecting her faith into the public school classroom? Needless to say her teachers weren’t happy. One day the teacher was presenting in science class on whales and thought she was all set. But Alas, the hand went up and the little girls stated: A whale swallowed Jonah. Impossible, scoffed the teacher. Easily provable, commented the girl. I shall ask Jonah when I get to Heaven. The teacher rather annoyed asks: And what if Jonah is in Hell and not Heaven? The little girl responds: Then you can ask him!
Like that little girl we must have eyes of faith. Today’s gospel reveals people of faith. In St. Andrew we find our first youth minister who encourages a young boy to bring forward his gifts of bread and fish to the Lord.
From the young man comes a willingness to make an offering of the little that he has to the Lord.
With our faith, the Lord accomplishes miracles. We hear the miracle of the loaves and fishes but we experience and see the miraculous in the mystery of the Eucharist.
With eyes of faith, we see beyond the bread and wine, we see the Lord fully and wholly present to us. Miraculously, through the Eucharist the Risen Lord offers his constant presence to us. He invites us to draw near to Him.
Many of the popular images of the Eucharist teach about its savings effects.
The image of the fishes and loaves reveal that God’s love is abundant, lavish, excessive. Like an Italian meal, There is always plenty for everyone.
God will never be outdone in his goodness or generosity.
The Lamb of God image reminds us that Christ became a sacrifice for us. He made an offering of his life and he asks us to make a similar offering of our lives.
Then there is the pelican. It is often engraved on our tabernacles. The pelican is often pictured with her chicks. The legend of the pelican is that the bird used its beak to pierce its breast to feed the chicks with its blood. The natural gives way to the Divine: Christ feeds the Church. This is my body given up for you...This is the chalice of my blood which…..which will be poured out for you and for many.
These images help us to see the importance of the Eucharist in our lives.
Cars run on gasoline, lights on electricity, and the world on money….it must be the Eucharist which motivates, inspires, energizes and sustains the Christian.
There is a wonderful Native American fable about a young Indian brave who has witnessed arrogance, pride and evil in one of his clan members. He approaches the wise shaman and questions him about the origin of evil. The shaman responds simply: there are two wolves inside of every person one that is good and one that is evil. The brave considers this but questions him further: Which wolf wins? The shaman responded: Which ever wolf you feed.
That story hangs in the chaplain’s office at Norfolk prison…a powerful reminder for the men there, a powerful reminder for those of us involved in ministry.
We come to the Eucharist to be fed by Him who is Humilty, Goodness, and Love.
This is why on his inaugural homily as Pope, Francis told us what papal ministry should look like and so also what our ministry should look like:
Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!
In the Eucharist, we encounter Christ. The Bread of Life feeds us his hungry. Here the divine Physician heals us his sick, wounded by division and strife. Here we the naked are clothed by Christ’s love and friendship. At this mass the once condemned prisoner now Resurrected shows us the way to true freedom, freeing us from the sins that imprison.
And if that’s not enough….like the word mass suggests, missa, to be sent, he sends us out to the vineyard to encounter the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked and the imprisoned.
And as his coworkers in the vineyard, the Eucharistic Lord whispers to us: As I have done for you…so you must do for others.