Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Memorial of St. John Neumann, bishop

(I John 4:7-10; Mark 6:34-44)

On the dining room wall of the Dominican priory serving the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome is painted a curious mural. Where one expects an image of the Last Supper, there is a painting of Jesus feeding the immense crowd in the gospel today. The substitution indicates that this feeding also represents the beginning of the Eucharist.

Although the people enjoyed a satisfying meal, we should interpret this gospel passage as more than illustrating Jesus’ call to feed the hungry. He is also telling us that we have him to share with any and everyone as spiritual nourishment. As the Gospel of John states, Jesus is the bread of life on which the world might feed perpetually. His words resonate deep in our souls providing meaning to see us through every situation that arises. The sacrament of his body and blood engages us in stronger relations with God and neighbors to effect positive change in our communities.

The presentation of Jesus feeding the masses at the beginning of the year assures us that Jesus will directly provide for our spiritual needs in the future. This is not to say that he is indifferent to material needs. Indeed, it shows that Jesus, better than any social scientist, knows how people work wonders when their hearts and minds are lifted to the challenge.