By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Sunday 29th July , 2018
Preached at St Ninians & St Chads Parish, Perth
St Paul’s Catholic Church, Mt Lawley
Today’s readings recall feeding miracles at the hands of Elisha and Jesus. Elisha was larger than life. Many of the stories linked to him are fanciful but they depict his as a caring man, and today’s first reading is an example of how he cared for a group of hungry men whose food supplies were inadequate. Jump ahead to Jesus who faced 5000 people who were not only physically hungry but spiritually starving because their religious leaders had abandoned them.
St John’s gospel has no account of Jesus blessing bread and wine during the Last Supper, but he records that the feeding of the 5000 took place during the Passover season, as does the Cleansing of the Temple, the Last Supper and the Crucifixion of Jesus. John intends his readers to reflect on the connection between these events and the Passover season when the deliverance of God’s people from slavery in Egypt is celebrated.
The feeding of the 5000 points to the Crucifixion because John’s account of what Jesus did on that hillside is identical to the other gospel writers’ description of Jesus’ actions surrounding the bread and wine during the Last Supper. These actions are also re-enacted in every mass celebrated by a Catholic priest and faithful.
On the hillside the disciples were told to buy bread to feed the crowd. As in Elisha’s case, what they came back with was totally inadequate. However, Jesus took what was available, said the blessing, broke the bread and shared it among the people.
At the Offertory in the Mass, the priest takes the bread and wine, praying that it will be worthy enough to become the body and blood of Jesus. Today I will ask you the faithful to pray that our sacrificial offering will be acceptable to God. You will do so. I will then thank God for his gift of salvation and for our living in union with Our Lady and the saints. We priests will repeat Our Lord’s words he used in the Last Supper which clearly points to his impending Crucifixion. We will proclaim that connection when we recall the mystery of faith.
We will then pray for the departed as well as ourselves, that we might be worthy of heaven. Following this I will break the bread announcing that Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. He is our redeemer and deliverer. You then pray that we all might share in his heavenly banquet. The broken body and blood of Christ are then shared with you, the faithful. The four actions of taking, blessing, breaking and sharing are not only what Jesus did, but describe himself ministry when he took up our humanity, was blessed at his baptism, broken in his passion and cross so his resurrection life might be shared by those who love him.
You can see why the mass and eucharistic devotion are central to Catholic worship. In every mass we hear the Word of God in Scripture and re-present the sacrifice offered for our salvation. All of us participate in it and must respond by offering ourselves to be taken, blessed, broken in our ministry and apostolates so that the resurrection life can be shared.
St Paul tells the Ephesians that they must be in unity with each other, and that means sharing a unity of faith and belief. This is why the Catholic Church believes that we cannot share communion with those who do not share the catholic faith in unity with the Bishop of Rome. If we believe that the mass is a re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice offered on the Cross for our salvation, how can we share communion with those who believe that the mass is only a shared meal when we recall Jesus telling us to love one another? If we believe that the consecrated bread and wine is the body and blood of Christ, how can we share communion with those who believe they are only symbols of his body and blood.
This is why the Ordinariates are so important in the Catholic Church. We are living examples of what true unity means – a shared faith with shared communion. We have done what others say they long for, but won’t do, so we are a visible sign of what true unity looks like.
Monsignor Entwistle is the first Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross. Educated at St Chad's Theological College, he was ordained a priest in the Church of England Diocese of Blackburn in 1964. After reception into the Roman Catholic Church, he was ordained to the priesthood in St Mary's Cathedral, Perth on 15 June 2012.