Cortez: Food for the soul

THE Sunday gospel reading (Luke 9:11B-17) is a story that showcases Jesus’ sensitivity to the needs of his people. Having spent long hours listening to the Lord and having their sick cured, the people were hungry. The apostles wanted to dismiss them, so each one of them may find his own food. Jesus, however, rejected the proposal. He instead instructed his disciples to feed the people. But how can they do so if five loaves and two fish were all that they had? This must be a logistical problem from the human point of view.

The disciples must have borne in mind that with them was Jesus, the Son of God with whom nothing is impossible. And truly, a miracle was about to happen before their very eyes. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples for distribution to the crowd. Consequently, everyone ate and was satisfied, even leaving leftover fragments that filled twelve wicker baskets.

The people were hungry and Jesus responded by giving them exactly what they needed – food. The Lord knew what hunger was and he addressed the problem directly, not by mere words but by concrete action. This is consistent with James 2:14-17 where we read, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

In a parallel account of this gospel story (John 6:1-14) we know that the five loaves and two fish came from a young boy who was kind enough to share the little that he had. In the eyes of the Lord, however, nothing is too little if given wholeheartedly.

We recall, for instance, the story of the poor widow who dropped two small copper coins at the temple treasury, as opposed to the rich who threw in large amounts (see Mark 12:41-44). Notice what Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

Despite these timeless lessons, a reality check will show us that we are still very far from this ideal of giving and sharing. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, about 815 million of the 7.6 billion people in the world in 2016 were suffering from chronic undernourishment. Contrast this to the overabundance of food, obesity, and food wasting that we see in developed nations of the world, and we’ll have a picture of the disparity in world food distribution – a disparity that is true not only in inter-country comparisons, but also within nations, regions, cities, towns, communities, and even families themselves.

Ours is a system where those who have more in life have failed to share significantly with those who have less. Rather than pointing fingers to each other, it is a more humble act to admit that we are all a part of the problem, in the same way that we can be a part of the solution. Whatever our status in this world, the gospel challenges us to take as our models the young boy who shared his five loaves and two fish, and the widow who offered her two coins in the temple – offerings that were seemingly insignificant but which the Lord has recognized as very significant.

Jesus’ way is the gold standard of what selfless giving should be. He gave manna to the Israelites in their journey in the desert, and he gave bread and fish to the people in this Sunday’s gospel. More than the bread that nourishes our bodies, however, he gave us something of supreme importance - his own flesh and blood to sustain our souls.

Thus, in the First Reading (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) we read the familiar words in the Eucharist. After taking the bread, giving thanks and breaking it, Jesus said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

How important is it to partake of the Lord’s body and blood? In John 6:54-56 we hear Jesus saying, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”

May the body and blood of Christ bring us all to everlasting life.


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