How can two items on the menu be a feast? For most of us, it wouldn’t be enough. It is for a child: milk and cookies or cake and ice cream. It is for anyone in Maryland during the summer: crabs and beer. And, for Catholics, we have the bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood of Christ.
Many cultures have a story, often called “Stone Soup”, whereby a traveler without any food of his own enters a town seemingly without as well. He claims that he has the power to feed them all with only a stone which he draws from his pocket. The villagers gather around to laugh as he tosses the stone in a pot of water and begins heating it. Throughout the day as the stone simmers at the bottom, the villagers are coaxed to open their cupboards to bring forth whatever they have as ‘a bit of carrot would make it taste that much better.’ As the familiar story unfolds, by the end of the day a full pot of stew, with meat and vegetables is ready all because everyone was willing to share.
Now there are those who would claim that Jesus’ Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes is nothing more than a Stone Soup story wherein everyone just pulled out what they had, so all could have enough. But, we know better, Jesus did what it says in the Bible — he multiplied just the five loaves and two fish. It was, and is, a miracle just as his Body and Blood. A miracle of a feast to sustain us. There might not be a lot on the menu, so to speak, but more than enough.
Over the past few Sundays we have been taking in the Bread of Life Discourses from St. John’s gospel wherein Christ reminds us, again and again, of how His very life will save ours. Not only through his sacrifice on the cross but throughout all of time at the altar. However, an inability to accept this promise of a feast has plagued Jesus’ promise since the very beginning. Throughout the readings from John we hear about those around Jesus who grumble at his words unable to comprehend them, but also unwilling, it seems to either ask Christ how it can be true or give it some quiet thought on their own.
This attitude of grumbling continues to this day amongst Jesus’ followers — us. We can grumble and complain about what we hear in the Gospel, from the pulpit, from our bishops and our Pope. Often, neither asking for needed clarification nor assenting to what we know to be true.
And complaining guests never help the atmosphere of a feast, do they? Neither do ungrateful ones: ones who dismiss what is being offered and demand more. If you think what Jesus is offering is not enough to sustain you, then take strength from the other offerings left by Christ for our mission. He gave us the Church itself to shelter us. We have saints and teachers who give us words to help us grow in wisdom and understanding. We also have each other. Traveling alone can be very hard so we are called to be brothers and sisters who can offer a prayer when someone is empty spiritually or a loaf of bread (often literally) if another is hungry.
However, the Eucharist remains the center of the feast if we allow it. Saint stories abound of those for whom the Eucharist was more than enough for their every meal. While few of us will be called to live only on the Eucharist we must admit we don’t live on it enough. We don’t fully appreciate all that having Christ be a part of us, can do for us. For that brief moment after receiving Him, He is truly one with us. For the rest of the week, we are asked to recall that moment and relive it. Pondering the reality of this Catholic teaching can do much to keep us full throughout the day. Making use of a Spiritual Communion on a daily basis if Mass is not possible, brings back the reality of Jesus within us. And life with Jesus is so much easier than life without!
But, on those days when the Eucharist just isn’t enough, don’t worry. If you need more for your own stone soup just open up the Pantry of our Church and pull out some Church Fathers, pick a saint’s biography or a current apologist to mull over and chew on. Add a helping of some good Catholic TV shows or evangelizing YouTube videos. And toss in the spice of a Catholic blog finishing it off with a side of some good Catholic music. You can fill you plate with centuries of spiritual delights from men and women of God for both your pleasure and edification, for your strength and support. No one need go hungry in the Catholic Church — literally, figuratively or spiritually! Take what you need — there’s always more, more than enough for all.