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EUCHARIST – BE TRANSFORMED!
An Irish writer in medieval times described the Eucharist as ‘a dangerous prayer’ because it expresses a readiness to let God transform us in whatever way he chooses. For the next five Sundays the gospel of John invites us to reflect on what it means to pray Eucharist, to be Eucharist, to do Eucharist, to live Eucharist. To understand the amazing gift that the Eucharist is we need to understand the giver. In the Eucharist Jesus offers us the fruits of his life, his death and his resurrection. He gives us what he calls living bread come down from heaven. Through this gift he wants us to become fully alive. This coming alive can happen in many ways.
Jesus grew up in a religious tradition which regarded food as sacred. Bread was to be treated with respect and never to be thrown away. The Law directed that thanks be given after every meal. The word Eucharist means thanksgiving. To give thanks is to be alive and alert to God’s goodness.
The bread and wine don’t resist the transforming presence of the Holy Spirit. We can resist. Sin is resistance to God, it limits our ability to love. The gospel passage today links the miracle of the loaves with the feast of Passover. Passover celebrated with great joy how God had freed his chosen people from slavery in Egypt and how he continued to lead them to freedom. Jesus brings a new Passover, a liberation from all that restricts our freedom. The only authentic freedom is the freedom to love, to love as he loves. In the Eucharist we remember and celebrate his commitment to bring about that freedom.
Today’s gospel offers some examples of that freedom. A large crowd gathered to hear Jesus. He satisfied their hunger for bread, but not their hunger for power. The abundance of bread and fish gave rise to joy and gratitude. Efforts to control Jesus and exploit his popularity for political ends failed. Jesus claimed his freedom, he refused to let himself be used by others for their purposes. The boy with the five barley loaves and the two fish is a model of generosity. He has the freedom to share the little he has and see how in Jesus’ hands it is multiplied. There are times when we share the little we have and then discover how much we have left over. At every Eucharist we express our faith, our praise of God, our availability for transformation, and pray for growing inner freedom.