The gospel for Corpus Christi is Luke’s story of the multiplication of the loaves and fish: Jesus, Luke says, had made the crowd welcome and talked to them about the Kingdom of God and also cured those in need, then he fed them. It has become fashionable today to speak about the miracle as if Jesus’ goodness forced people to share the food they had brought with them. But the point of the story is to show Jesus performing a prophetic action. As it continues, the narrative evokes images of the Exodus: the desert, the hungry people, the bread, the collecting into baskets. Jesus by his action is bringing about a new Exodus; the miracle is, as it were, drawn out of him, as Rosemary Haughton, the Jewish-Christian writer once said: “The people were hungry, they needed food, and it seems possible… that the challenge of it had been growing in the back of his mind while he was teaching and healing them… the sight of them and its associations were driving him imaginatively towards the action he in fact took” (The Passionate God, 76-77).
We get a picture of Jesus as compassionate towards a leaderless people and concerned about them at a physical as well as at a spiritual level. Perhaps we need to be reminded of this on the feast of Corpus Christi: it is not just a feast of celebrating the Real Presence of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist, but one to remind us of the needs of the greater Body of Christ. Bringing in the Kingdom involves being concerned about the hungry of the world. It is increasingly clear in today’s world that mere hand-outs of food are not enough; we as Christians have to examine how we can make a difference in a more profound way. Taking part in the Eucharist day by day should make us ready to commit ourselves to the same self-giving love which Jesus portrayed.
Once in the early days of Dominican life, when there was no bread to eat, “Brother Dominic, with a cheerful expression on his face, raised his hands, praised the Lord and pronounced the blessing, and immediately two people came in carrying two baskets… so that the brethren had more than enough” (Bologna Canonisation Process, 22)
Sr Celine Mangan O.P