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THE SOLEMNITY OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST-CORPUS CHRISTI (Cycle C)
(In the universal Roman calendar, this solemnity is celebrated on the Thursday after the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. In the United States and Canada, it is celebrated on the Sunday after the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity)

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus (Corpus Christi): In the Middle Ages, Christians wanted to joyfully celebrate Jesus' precious gift of the Eucharist in a solemnity that was an echo of Holy Thursday. They created this feast in the spring during a time when they could hold joyful processions, street fairs and other outdoor events for their faith communities. The bread of the Lord's Body was carried outdoors under a canopy in a procession with music playing and the people joining in singing their favorite hymns of praise. This solemnity is still celebrated with such displays in Latin America and in Europe. In the universal Roman calendar, this solemnity is celebrated on the Thursday after the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. In the United States and Canada it is celebrated on the Sunday after the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity.

Readings:
Genesis 14:18-20
Psalm 110:1-4
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Luke 9:11b-17

Abbreviations: NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation). CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

God's divine plan for mankind is revealed in the two Testaments and that is why we reread and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy. The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

Theme of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus (Corpus Christi): Sharing in the life of Christ
When we celebrate the Eucharist, we receive and celebrate the mysterious Presence of Jesus Christ within the community of the Church: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will live in me and I in him, says the Lord" (communion antiphon). In the Middle Ages, Christians wanted to joyfully celebrate Jesus' precious gift of the Eucharist in a solemnity that was an echo of Holy Thursday. They created this feast in the spring during a time when they could hold joyful processions, street fairs and other outdoor events for their faith communities. The bread of the Lord's Body was carried outdoors under a canopy in a procession with music playing and the people joining in singing their favorite hymns of praise. This solemnity is still celebrated with such displays in Latin America and in Europe. In the universal Roman calendar, this solemnity is celebrated on the Thursday after the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. In the United States and Canada, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood is celebrated on the Sunday after the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity.

In the First Reading, the inspired writer of the Letter to the Hebrews quotes Genesis 14:19 and interprets Melchizedek, God's righteous priest-king of Salem, the "city of peace," as prefiguring Jesus who is the High Priest and King of the heavenly "city of peace" and its Sanctuary in the Kingdom of Heaven. The First Reading prepares us for the Responsorial Psalm that prophesizes one coming in the future who, like Melchizedek will be a priest forever.

In the Second Reading, St. Paul repeats the Church's oldest account of the words of consecration in the celebration of the Eucharist apart from Jesus' declaration to the Apostles at the Last Supper. Paul received Jesus' words concerning the Eucharist in the same way they have been passed on to us down through the centuries. St. Paul invites the readers of his letter to meditate on the real meaning of the Eucharistic banquet which signifies not only oneness with Christ who feeds the faithful with His own Body and Blood but also the oneness of the community in Christ as the unity of the Church—a oneness we celebrate until He comes again in glory.

The Gospel Reading concerns Jesus' miracle feeding of the 5,000 men—not counting women and children. At first glance this story seems to be only concerned with Jesus' compassion and His supernatural ability to meet the needs of His people, but there is so much more to be understood concerning this event. The miracle feedings of the 5,000 and 4,000 look backward in time to recall the feeding miracles in Old Testament. Those miracle feedings also look forward in time to prefigure Jesus' greater miraculous feeding of the disciples with His Body and Blood at the Last Supper. The continuation of the miracle feeding at the Last Supper is found in the celebration of the Eucharist as Jesus abundantly provides for the spiritual nourishment of His Kingdom of the Church in every generation, and also the anticipation of the faithful's participation in the Wedding Supper of the Lamb in the heavenly Sanctuary at the end of time.

The First Reading Genesis 14:18-20 ~ Melchizedek prefigures Jesus' Divine Priesthood
In those days, Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine, and being a priest of God Most High, he blessed Abram with these words: 19 "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, the creator of heaven and earth; 20 and blessed be God Most High, who delivered your foes into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
The inspired writer of the Letter to the Hebrews refers to this passage and interprets God's priest Melchizedek as a foreshadowing of Jesus who is the High Priest of the New Covenant (Heb chapters 5-7). Eucharistic Prayer I refers to the bread and wine offered by the priest-king Melchizedek to Abram (Abraham) as prefiguring the Eucharist: "Look with favor on these offerings and accept them as once you accepted the gifts of your servant Abel, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, and the bread and wine offered by your priest Melchizedek."

Melchizedek is not a name; it is a title. Melech is the Hebrew word for "king" and zedek means "righteousness;" he is the "king of righteousness" (The Works of Philo, "Allegorical Interpretation, III," page 59; Antiquities of the Jews 1.10.2) who, according to the first century Jewish priest/historian Flavius Josephus, ruled Jerusalem which was formerly known as Salem (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 1.10.2, 7.3.2; The Wars of the Jews 6.10.1). The Book of Hebrews identifies him as the King of Salem (Yireh-salem in Hebrew meaning "provides/will provide-peace"; see Gen 22:14). Melchizedek, like Jesus Christ, is God's high priest by virtue of God's call and not through an ancestral line like the priests of the Sinai Covenant who came to the priesthood by heredity, having to prove their descent from Moses' brother Aaron (first High Priest of the Sinai Covenant). Melchizedek's priesthood was like Christ's High Priesthood in that it was a higher order priesthood ordained by God.

According to Jewish tradition and also recounted by Church Fathers, Melchizedek was Noah's righteous firstborn son Shem (Gen 6:10). Shem is still alive at the time of the events in this passage. In fact Shem will outlive his descendant Abraham (Gen 11:10-26). There is Biblical precedent for Shem changing his name and adopting a "throne name" when he became King of Salem. King Solomon's name was changed from Jedidah (Yedidyah = "beloved of Yahweh), the name given him at his birth by the prophet Nathan. The king name he was known by was Solomon (from the Hebrew word for "peace"). There is also historical precedent: kings in the ancient Near East (and most kings) took a throne-name other than their birth name (i.e., the Egyptian pharaohs). The Vicar of Christ also takes a "throne name" upon his ascension to the Papal throne of St. Peter (who was born Simon), like Joseph Ratzinger who became Pope Benedict XVI. In the Bible, a change in name reflects a change in mission or destiny.

Both St. Ephraim in the 4th century AD and St. Jerome in the 5th century AD acknowledged Shem's link to Melchizedek:

You may recall that Shem was the first man identified in Scripture as "God's man": Blessed be Yahweh, God of Shem (Gen 9:26a), and Shem was also the righteous "firstborn" son of Noah with whom God's Covenant with Noah continued. Abram/Abraham was his descendant according to the genealogy in Genesis 11. Genesis 11:10 records: When Shem was a hundred years old he fathered Arpachshad, two years after the flood. After the birth of Arpachshad, Shem lived 500 years. Shem lived to be 600 years old. If you calculate the age of Shem from the toledoth of Genesis chapter 11 you will discover that Shem was 390 years old when Abram was born. Genesis 17:24 records that Abraham (his name was changed by then) was 99 years old when Ishmael was circumcised at age 13. At that time Shem was a venerable 489 years old-- still alive after the events of Genesis chapter 14. For information on Shem as Melchizedek also see Babylonian Talmud, N'darim 32b; and most modern Jewish Bible study notes: i.e., Tanach (Stone edition), note on page 29; and The Jewish New Testament Commentary, page 679.

In an act that has the elements of liturgical worship, Melchizedek brought Abram "bread and wine"-the future sign of the Eucharist, and pronounced a blessing in the name of "God the Most High, Creator of heaven and earth," giving credit to God for Abram's victory over his enemies. Christ, as our High Priest in the Heavenly Sanctuary, receives our offerings of bread and wine and returns them to us, transformed by the miracle of Transubstantiation, into His Body and Blood; it was a gift which He promised to us in the Bread of Life Discourse in the Gospel of St. John chapter 6: In truth I tell you [amen, amen], if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have not life in you. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise that person up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person (Jn 6:53-56 NJB). Melchizedek's priesthood prefigured Christ's (Heb 5-7), and his gift of bread and wine to Abram prefigured Christ's gift of the Eucharist to His Church (CCC 1333; 1373-77; 1544).

Elements of the celebration of the Eucharist in the Mass in this passage:
Melchizedek The Priest in the Liturgy of the Mass
He offered bread and wine to Abram. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the bread and wine are brought forward and are transformed into Christ's Body and Blood, which the priest then offers to the faithful.
He pronounced God's blessing on Abram. The priest calls down God's blessing upon the people.
He offered praise to God. The priest leads the people in praise of God.
He received Abram's tithes. The priest receives the people's tithes and offerings.
He was acknowledged as God's representative. The priest is acknowledged as Christ's representative to the people.
M. Hunt © copyright 2009 www.agapebiblestudy.com

After his gift of bread and wine, Melchizedek blessed Abram. It was a blessing that was an echo of the blessing Noah gave Shem in Genesis 9:26, both praising God for blessing Shem and for binding his enemy: Blessed be Yahweh, God of Shem; let Canaan be his slave! Compared to: Blessed be Abram by God Most High, [...]. And blessed be God Most High for putting your enemies into your clutches (NJB).

A blessing is that which is conferred by God through His priest, affecting what is pronounced. In the liturgy of Israel in the Sinai Covenant, two types of blessings form the ritual of worship:

  1. The people in prayer petitioning God for His blessings
  2. The people bless God, giving thanksgiving for God's goodness and mercy

(see Num 6:22; Dt 27:14-26; Ps 103:1-2; 144:1; Dn 2:19-23).

In Genesis 14:19 Melchizedek conferred the same kind of two-part blessing that will be the foundation of liturgical worship in the Sinai Covenant, in prayers offered by the priests in every liturgical service:

From the time after the flood when God established a covenant with Noah and all creation, all of humanity was under the Noahide Covenant, which remained in effect for the Gentiles until the proclamation of the Gospel (see CCC 58). If Shem/Melchizedek was Yahweh's Covenant representative, it makes perfect sense for Abram to acknowledge his leadership and to pay a tithe. Scripture records that Abraham died when he was 175 years old (Genesis 25:7). At that time Shem would have been a venerable 565 years old, outliving his "son" and heir, Abraham, and dying in his 600th year. Making the argument that Shem is Melchizedek, St. Ephraim wrote: Shem lived not only to the time of Abraham, as Scripture says, but even to the time of Jacob and Esau, the grandsons of Abraham. It was to him that Rebekah went to ask and was told, "Two nations are in your womb, and the elder shall serve the younger." Rebekah would not have bypassed her husband, who had been delivered at the high place, or her father-in-law, to whom revelations of the divinity came continually and gone straight to ask Melchizedech unless she had learned of his greatness from Abraham or Abraham's son. Abraham would not have given him a tenth of everything unless he knew that Melchizedek was infinitely greater than himself. Would Rebekah have asked one of the Canaanites or one of the Sodomites? Would Abraham have given a tenth of his possessions to any one of these? One ought not even entertain such ideas. St. Ephraim, Commentary on Genesis.

Some Bible scholars have suggested that Melchizedek was a pagan king serving a Canaanite god whose name was Elyon, Hebrew for "Most High." Scripture itself clearly refutes this interpretation by identifying the god Melchizedek worshiped as the "God Most High (El Elyon), the Creator of heaven and earth" (Gen 1:12:4a) who is also Abram's God and by whom Abram swore an oath to the king of Sodom using Melchizedek's same words: I swear by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth (Gen 14:22). Would Abram swear an oath by a Canaanite god? Surely not! Would he pay a tithe to the priest of a pagan god? As St. Ephraim vigorously wrote, one mustn't even entertain such thoughts! Melchizedek is a priest of God the Almighty-the God of Creation and the God of Abraham. Similar titles/names for God as "God Most High" are also found in the Old Testament in Psalm 7:17; 9:2; 21:7; 47:2; 50:14; 57:2; 73:11; 77:11; 78:17; 78:56; 82:6; 83:18; 91:1, 9; 92:1; Is 14:14 (Satan calls God "Most High"); Lam 3:35, 38; Dan 3:26; 5:18, 21; 7:18, 22, 25 (twice), and 27.

In the New Testament book of Hebrews the inspired writer (who according to many of the Church Fathers was St. Paul) compared Melchizedek to Jesus. St. Paul present Melchizedek as a "type" of Christ, prefiguring Jesus Christ as God's priestly king (see Heb 4:15; 5:1-10; 6:19; 7:1-28; 8:1-5; 9:25-28; 10:10). Melchizedek, God's priest-king of Salem, the "city of peace," prefigured Jesus, the Son of God, the High Priest of the Heavenly Jerusalem and its Sanctuary, and the King of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth:

Priestly order of Melchizedek as Shem Priestly order of Jesus Christ
Shem/Melchizedek is the first priest in Scripture appointed by God (Gen 14:18).   Jesus is the eternal High Priest-the last and the only eternal priest appointed by God (Heb 7:26-8:2).  
He was chosen from among men (Gen 9:26-27) to rule over his brothers and their descendants through the Noahide world Covenant (Gen 9:8-10, 17).   He was chosen from among men to be a compassionate High Priest and advocate of the worldwide New Covenant people of God (Mt 28:19-20; Heb 4:15).
Tithes were paid to the priest Melchizedek by Abram; if he is Shem the tithes are paid within the covenant family (Gen 14:20).   Tithes are paid to Christ our High Priest through His Church by the covenant family.
Melchizedek brought Abram bread and wine as a priestly function (Genesis 14:18). The covenant people bring Christ, our High Priest, offerings of bread and wine and He gives us, under the appearance of bread and wine, His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity (Mt 26:26-29; 1 Cor 11:23-27).  
As God's priest he blessed Abram and offered praise and thanksgiving to God (Gen 14:18-19).   He offers eternal blessings to the people and an eternal sacrifice to God on behalf of the covenant people (Heb 9:25-28; 10:10).
Melchizedek was both a High Priest and the King of Salem/Jerusalem (Gen 14:18). Jesus is both the New Covenant High Priest and King of the heavenly Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.  
Melchizedek is titled in Genesis 14 as "the priest" of the Most High God. There is no other priest. God's New Covenant is extended to include all nations (Mt 28:19-20). Jesus is the eternal high priest bringing the peoples of the earth back into one covenant family. Jesus is the eternal priest of the New Covenant. There is no other High Priest of the New Covenant
M. Hunt © copyright 2007

The Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 110:1-4 ~ The Eternal Priesthood
The LORD says to you, my lord: "take your throne at my right hand, while I make your enemies your foot stood." The scepter of your sovereign night the LORD will extend from Zion. The LORD says: "Rule over your enemies! Yours is princely power from the day of your birth. In holy splendor before the daystar, like the dew I begot you." The LORD has sworn and will not waver. "Like Melchizedek you are a priest forever." (LORD is substituted for the Divine Name YHWH).
King David prophesized the return to a priesthood like Melchizedek's in Psalm 110:4: The LORD has sworn and will not waver. "Like Melchizedek you are a priest forever." Psalm 110:4 LXX (from the Greek Septuagint) is quoted in the New Testament along with Psalm 2:7 LXX in Hebrews 5:5-6: In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him: "You are my son; this day I have begotten you"; just as he says in another place: "You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek." The Psalm 110 passage is also quoted by Jesus, a passage which He applies to Himself in Matthew 22:43-45, quoting from verse 1 but referring to the entire Psalm 110 and the prophecy of the prerogatives of His worldwide sovereignty and perpetual priesthood. In Luke 20:41-44 Jesus teaches the true meaning of this psalm to the religious authorities: 41 Then he said to them, "How do they claim that the Messiah is the Son of David? 42 For David himself in the Book of Psalms says: 'The Lord said to my lord, "Sit at my right hand 43 till I make your enemies your footstool."' 44 Now if David calls him 'lord,' how can he be his son?"

David was considered to be a prophet (see Acts 1:16; 2:25; 4:25; 13:36) and the psalms was considered a prophetic book (Lk 24:44; Acts 1:20). The psalm Jesus quotes is LXX 110:1 [Ps 109:1 in some translations]. It is the most often quoted or alluded to psalms by Jesus in the Gospels (Mt 22:44; 26:64; Mk 12:36; 16:19; Lk 22:69) and is an important proof text for the Resurrection (see Acts 2:33-34; 1 Cor 15:25; Heb 1:3) and for the Resurrected Christ seated at the right hand of God in the heavenly Sanctuary (Rom 8:34; 1 Cor 15:25; Eph 1:20, 22; Col 3:1; Heb 1:13; 2:8; 8:1; 10:12-13; 12:2).

The point of Jesus' argument in Luke 20:41-44 is that the psalm refers not only to an earthly descendant (one less than David), but also to another (to one greater than David) since the prophet David calls this person "Lord" –which means that person is far above David and must point therefore to the Messiah-Jesus. The future king that David writes about in Psalm 110:1 is one the angel Gabriel spoke of who will not only inherit "the throne of David his father", but will also "rule over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there will have no end" (Lk 1:32-33). St. Peter makes a similar argument in his homily on Pentecost in Acts 2:25-34.

The Second Reading is 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 ~ The Eucharist
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over took bread, 24 and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 25 In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

St. Paul is recounting the Church's oldest account of the words of consecration in the celebration of the Eucharist apart from Jesus' declaration at the Last Supper. Paul was not present at the Last Supper. Jesus' words were passed on to him in the same way they have been passed on to us down through the centuries.

This passage begins with a rebuke from Paul to the faith community at Corinth. The early Church celebrated the Eucharist in a tradition similar to the Last Supper in which the sharing of the Body and Blood of Christ came at the end of a communal meal which the Church came to call the "agape" meal. However, in Corinth the agape meal had become a problem. The wealthy brought their own food and did not share with the community's poor. Therefore, the meal that was a prelude to the Eucharist that was meant to bring the community together had become a sign of division (1 Cor 11:17-22). In this passage, St. Paul invites the Corinthians to meditate on the real meaning of the Eucharistic banquet which signifies not only oneness with Christ who feeds the faithful with His own Body and Blood but also the oneness of the community in Christ as the unity of the Church-a oneness we celebrate until He comes again in glory.

The Gospel Reading Luke 9:11b-17 ~ The Eucharist Prefigured in the Feeding of the Five Thousand
11 The crowds, meanwhile, learned of this and followed him. He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and he healed those who needed to be cured. 12 As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached him and said, "Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here." 13 He said to them, "Give them some food yourselves." They replied, "five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go to buy food for all these people." 14 Now the men there numbered about five thousand. Then he said to his disciples, "Have them sit down [cause them to recline] in groups of about fifty." 15 They did so and made them all sit down [recline]. 16 Then taking the five loaves and two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 17 They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets. [..] literal translation; from the Greek verb analino/anapipto, "to fall back," or "recline"' IBGE, vol. IV, page 187). It is the same verb used to describe the position of Jesus and the Apostles at the Last Supper (IBGE, vol. IV, page 234, Luke 22:14).

This miracle feeding is recorded in all the Gospels. The Gospel of John tells us this event took place in the second year of Jesus' ministry during the spring when the pilgrims were making their way to Jerusalem for the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread (Jn 6:1-4). Bethsaida, located at the extreme northern point of the Sea of Galilee, was the hometown of the Apostle Philip (Lk 6:14) and was also the hometown of Peter and Andrew before they moved to Capernaum (Jn 1:44).

At first glance this story of the feeding miracle seems to be only concerned with Jesus' compassion and His supernatural ability to meet the needs of His people, but there is so much more to be understood concerning this event. This miracle recalls the feeding miracles of the Old Testament. See for example Ex 16:4-13, 35; Num 11:31-34; 1 Kng 17:8-16; 2 Kng 4:42-44.
Some of the Old Testament feeding miracles:

The miracle of feeding is not only meant to remind us of God's compassion in the Old Testament but to also to prepare us for a greater miracle that St. John's Gospel points us to in Jesus' Bread of Life Discourse. In that discourse the Jews saw Jesus feeding miracle the day before in the context of the miracle of the manna and Jesus as the new prophet Moses come to liberate His people and the new David come to reestablish the kingdom of Israel (see Jn 6:1-15; 30-31). In His discourse the next day, Jesus promises that He will one day give His Body and Blood as food and drink for the salvation of man (Jn 6:22-65). His miracle feeding and the discourse the next day foreshadows the giving of Himself in the Eucharist.

Jesus miraculously transforms five loaves of barley bread (Jn 6:9) and two fishes into enough food to feed the crowd. First He tells them to recline in groups on the grass. Then Jesus blessed the bread, broke the bread, and gave the food to His disciples to distribute to the people. We are only told that five thousand men were fed, not counting the women and children, so the number was maybe twice or three times as many. This was a supernatural event and not, as some claim, an example of the people sharing food they already brought with them. The number 5 is the number of grace and any multiple of a number signifies abundance of the symbolic nature of the number; in this case, the number signifies the abundance of God's grace in meeting the needs of His people. The five loaves and two fishes of the meal also may have symbolic significance. Together they add up to the number 7; it is also one of the "perfect" numbers (3, 7, 10 and 12), signifying perfection, fullness and completion, especially spiritual perfection (see the document "The Significance of Numbers in Scripture").

Notice how carefully St. Luke and the other Synoptic Gospel writers have provided several similarities between the miracle feeding of the more than 5 thousand and the miracle feeding at the Last Supper (see Mt 14:13-21 and 26:26-30; Mk 6:30-44 and 14:22-26; Lk 9:10-17 and 22:14-20). The Gospel writers used some of the same wording and in the same order:

The Feeding Miracle of the 5 Thousand The Last Supper
It was evening when the meal took place (Mt 14:15; Mk 6:35; Lk 9:12)   It was evening when the meal took place *
They reclined to eat (Mt 14:19; Mk 6:40; Lk 9:14-15) They reclined to eat (Mt 26:20; Lk 22:14 in Greek text)
Jesus blessed the food (Mt 14:19; Mk 4:1; Lk 9:16) Jesus blessed the food (Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22; Lk 22:19)
He broke the loaves (Mt 14:19; Mk 6:41; Lk 9:16) He broke the loaves (Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22; Lk 22:19)
Jesus passed the food to the disciples (Mt 14:19; Mk 6:41; Lk 9:16) Jesus passed the food to the disciples (Mt 26:26: Mk 14:22; Lk 22:19)
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013

*According to the Law of Moses, the feast of Passover victim began after sundown (Ex 12:8; Mt 26:20).

This miracle feeding foreshadowed the first Eucharistic banquet at the Last Supper but it was not the same miracle:

  1. It was not a sacred feast as in the eating of the Passover sacrifice at the Last Supper on the first night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
  2. The bread was barley bread (Jn 6:9) and not the unleavened wheat bread of the Last Supper.
  3. Fish was the meat of the meal and not the roasted sacrificed lamb or kid of the Passover.
  4. The miracle of the Last Supper was the transforming of the bread into Jesus' Body, not multiplying material bread for a crowd.

Note in 12 baskets of food were leftover, one basket for each Apostle. The abundance of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes distributed by the Apostles prefigures the feeding of the Eucharist to the faithful of the world. Jesus makes the same miracle of the Last Supper present on church altars to His ordained ministers who pass out to the congregation what was ordinary bread but has become the Bread of Life to the Body of Christ—the Church throughout the world.

Jesus' abundant miracle feedings prefigure Jesus' offering Himself in the Eucharist to generations of the faithful. And the Eucharist is also a foreshadow of the promise of the eschatological banquet of the faithful after the "final harvest" at the end of time in God's heavenly Sanctuary (see Is 25:6; 62:8-9; 65:13-14; Jer 31:12-14; Ez 44:16; Rev 19:7-9). The Catechism interprets Jesus' miracle feedings of the five thousand (and four thousand) in this way: The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributed the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of his Eucharist. The sign of water turned into wine at Cana already announces the Hour of Jesus' glorification. It makes manifest the fulfillment of the wedding feast in the Father's kingdom, where the faithful will drink the new wine that has become the Blood of Christ (CCC 1335).

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013, revised 2016