The Word of God is living with a variety of ways to access it. Once one is inside and is willing to listen, then the transformative power of God leads to conversion and growth. We are encouraged to carry it so that it can assist us to have faith and to be generous to the extent of hearing “give them some food yourselves” Luke 9:13. This is what is expected of us every day.
First Reading Genesis 14:18-20
A mysterious figure of unknown origin, Melchizedek is portrayed in Genesis as the priest-king of Salem the site of the future city of Jerusalem. He is featured as coming out to meet Abram who was returning from battle to rescue his nephew Lot from a coalition of Canaanite kings. After defeating the enemies of Lot, Abram was blessed by Melchizedek who offered him gifts of bread and wine. Abram, in turn, offered the priest-king 10% of his captured booty. This narrative brings one of Israel’s Patriarchs into close conjunction with the city, the royalty and the priesthood of a place which historically became the seat of Israel during David’s time. Melchizedek’s name appears also in Psalm 110, a royal enthronement song which honored one of Judah’s kings as “a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” Psalm 110:4. This description affirmed the priestly character of kingship cf. 2 Samuel 8:18 attesting that their ancient predecessor had been a priest-king.
In other Hebrew literature Melchizedek became something of an eschatological figure, the personification of good versus evil and the epitome of a heavenly priest whose service continues forever. In the letter to Hebrews Chapters 5-7 refer to Melchizedek as a type of Christ in order to illustrate the superiority of Jesus’ priesthood and sacrifice over those in Hebrew tradition; however this typology should be understood theologically rather than historically. Jesus’ linkage with Melchizedek rests in two things: the fact that their origins are mysterious and that their functions were similar. Today, the name of Melchizedek continues to be invoked in reference to Jesus; just as Melchizedek blessed Abram and offered gifts of bread and wine, so does Jesus bless all of humankind with the offering of himself as food. We have to consider ourselves privileged to partakers in this wonderful order of blessings.
Second Reading 1Corinthians 11:23-26
Paul’s account of the gift of the Eucharist is the earliest presentation written some decades before the oral tradition about Jesus was organized into written Gospels. Paul presented this narrative to the Corinthians as a teaching and tradition that he had received and had faithfully handed to others. Paul praised Corinthians for holding fast to this tradition. Then he went on to address some problems regarding the proper conduct at liturgy as same some abuses had been sighted during public worship putting at risk unity and authenticity.
At the heart of this instruction is the account of Jesus’ action at the Last Supper which is not exact description as it bears the liturgical and stylistic features of a Hellenized tradition probably of Antiochene origin. Nevertheless, it contains the most original meaning concerning the institution of the Eucharist. It was Jesus who said “this is my body, which is for you,” 1Corinthians 11:24 underlying the belief that Jesus suffered vicariously for the sake of sinners and died so that many be saved cf. 1Corinthians 15:3. Jesus’ offer of “this cup is the new covenant in my blood” 1Corinthians 11:25 recalled the sacrifice at the Passover cf. Exodus 12:14. Thus the action of Jesus at the Last Supper would become the means for us to remember and celebrate humankind’s deliverance from sin and death. With the concluding words of this narrative “proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes” 1Corinthians 11:26, Paul affirmed the eschatological character of the Eucharistic celebration.
Gospel Luke 9:11-17
This event of multiplication of bread may be seen today not just as a miracle but a wonder of rear sharing in a world that is selfish and egocentric. The miracle here therefore was that so many people suddenly ceased to be possessive about their food and begin to share, only to discover that there was more than enough to go around and even later curry home.
More significant however, is that in feeding the multitudes; Jesus was revealing who he was and why he had come into the world. As presented by Luke, the loaves event constituted part of the answer to the question asked by Herod, “who is this man about whom I hear such things?” Luke 9:9. In response, Luke portrayed Jesus as a prophet like Elisha who had fed a hundred people with only 20 loaves cf. 2Kings 4:42-44. Such actions were perceived as signs of the messianic era. The statement “all ate and were satisfied” Luke 9:17 literally reflected the bounty that was associated with the reign of the messiah in Psalm 37:19. That reign had begun in Jesus offering loaves and fish as a joyful witness to that good news.
After the resurrection of Jesus, his followers looked back upon this event and recognized its relationship to Jesus’ action at the Last Supper. In both instances Jesus took bread, raised his eyes to heaven, broke the bread and gave it. However, although the loaves event was indeed miraculous, it is not to be confused with the sacramental gift of Jesus’ body and blood; rather, it functioned as a sign that prefigured the gift of himself on the Cross as well as the gift of himself as food. The loaves event continues to challenge us even today to receive him with honor and all respect due. The nourishment Jesus offered so freely in that deserted place makes us reflect on our responsibility to feed ourselves and others especially the needy.
His feeding of the crowds with a few loaves and a couple of fish would become a sign of his willingness to satisfy every human hunger. This he did with the gift of himself, broken and bleeding on the Cross. This he continues to do with the gift of himself in bread and wine at every Eucharistic gathering. As we celebrate this great gift today, we acknowledge how privileged we are to be nourished regularly at the table of the Lord. Fine food, and plenty of it, is ever available. All we need to do is come, eat and be satisfied by the bread of the Word and the bread of the body of Christ. But this privilege is not without its responsibilities. We are fed by the body of Christ so that we can go forth and feed the members of the body of Christ.
Are you aware that we live in a world of contradictions? According to stopthehunger.com, whose statistics are updated in real time, 14,631 people die of hunger every day. At the same time 1,021,795,769 of the world’s people are undernourished while 1,146,175,278 are overweight and 341,133,043 others are obese. Some of us may object that such statistics have no place at Sunday worship. But if not here, where will the cries of the poor be heard? How will their hunger be stopped, if not by you and me? Our belonging to the body of Christ compels us to care. As we have been fed so generously at the table of Christ, we are now made responsible for those less fortunate. Jesus is telling us also today that “give them some food yourselves” Luke 9:13. How can we ignore him and still show up to eat our fill next Sunday?
Like Melchizedek we need to bless and share what we have beginning with food. St Paul reminds us to respect and to benefit from the Eucharist. It is when we hare what we have that we come to realize that we have more than you actually need. We are invited to be generous. When we are generous we are able to recognize Melchizedek and whenever we celebrate the Eucharist we are doing so in memory of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This good tradition ought to be kept and respected so that we can see greater things done by God in our lives. While celebrating the love of God we have to keep in mind that a person is the people; the Eucharist is meant to build a community that is united and willing to collaborate.