2 Kgs 4:42-44
Speaking of the Trinity, Catherine LaCugna says, “The living God is the God who is alive in relationship,…alive with desire for union with every creature…God’s way of being in relationship with us – which is God’s personhood – is a perfect expression of God’s being as God” [God For Us, 304-305].”
The final blessing of the Baptismal ceremony is, “May Jesus Christ Our Lord, the Good Shepherd, recall to our minds for the rest of this day and all the days of our lives the true and deep meaning of what we have done here.” Little reminders will help us to do this; for instance, touching the water and blessing ourselves when we enter or leave church. Praying grace before we eat is another example. Baptism leads us to our seat at the banquet table of the Eucharist, where we will be nourished with the Bread of Life. Sharing a meal is an experience of relationship. It can make present the God who sustains the gift of life, both physical and spiritual.
The movie “Babbette’s Feast” is a visual meditation that opens endless meanings on the power of a shared meal. The destitute Babbette, living among a rather dour group of self-contained people in a foreign land, throws the most lavish banquet money can buy. After winning a small fortune in her native country, she spends – some would say squanders – the entire amount providing a banquet, the likes of which none have ever imagined, for the town. Her act suggests many meanings to those who feast, and to those who see the movie: generous extravagance, giving without thought of reward, the limitations of those who receive, joy, a vision beyond the banquet table, people sharing….. We may find echoes of Babette’s feast at a Thanksgiving Dinner or at a wedding banquet. According to a survey in the Baltimore Sun the majority of women (and women more than men) find cooking to be an expression of their love! From all of this one might say there is more than food cooking when we sit down for a meal.
Today John invites us to a meal that Jesus provides. We may say it is a Eucharistic meal. At the Last Supper, which takes place as the Passover nears, our Lord does not share the bread and wine. He washes the feet of the disciples, giving us the commandment to love one another as he has loved us. The Last Supper becomes a meal that shows us our transformation into the one that we receive. But in this earlier meal, the multiplication of the loaves and fish, Jesus does what the great prophet Elisha once did when he fed one hundred people. When the crowd sees what has happened they acclaim, “This is truly the prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” They desire to make Jesus king.
The people acknowledge Jesus and see the sign he has done. But they do not as yet know that Jesus will die upon the Cross while the lambs to be used for Passover are being sacrificed in the temple. Jesus is more than a prophet. But they are correct in thinking of him as king. But the king that will be revealed on the Cross will give pause to most people. The meal that Jesus sets today invites our pondering. During the next four weeks as we read John, chapter 6, let us consider our relationship with God, the love revealed in what is set before us, and the always new life that comes to us in sharing together this banquet.
- Fr. Bill Murphy, C.P.