Happy Feast of Corpus Christi! On this thirteenth anniversary of my first receiving the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ (though perhaps the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua would me a more accurate date by a calendar), I’ve uploaded a paper for last semester’s Gospel of John class at Holy Apostles. It pertains both to the Eucharist itself and to today’s Gospel reading (among other things). Hope you enjoy it and learn from it!
Holy Apostles College & Seminary
The Miracle of Loaves and Fishes:
Implications on our Understanding of the Eucharist, the Faith and the Faithful
Fr. William Mills
SAS 461: Gospel of John
14 March 2016
The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, “the only miracle story found in all four gospels (occurring twice in Mark and Matthew),” is a perfect example of the external wonders of Jesus’ miracles being “signs” which “point to and reveal spiritual realities and truths about Jesus.” This miracle, however, not only applied to the “signs of the times” (Mt 16:3), but also to our understanding of the Church, the “Mystical Body of Christ.” It allows us further insight into the Eucharist, Christianity, Eucharistic ministers, and Christians in general.
The Catechism teaches that “The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of his Eucharist.” The title of John Michael Talbot’s song “One Bread, One Body” is worth bringing to mind for this; for it is the one Body of Christ that has the “superabundance” to “feed the multitudes” through the Eucharistic species. The Eucharist “re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross,” the Catechism understands; thus, every Eucharistic host is one and the same Body of Christ, able to feed the entire Church—which can be seen as symbolized by how so few pieces of bread were able to feed thousands of people in the miracle of loaves. From there, the miracle can also be analogized with Christ’s sacrifice: Christ’s one offering of Himself is sufficient (provided we accept His offering) to save all mankind.
In this way, the fish Christ multiplied and distributed can be related to the Catholic faith (considering the fact that the fish was an early symbol of Christianity). There is one, true, “Catholic” (“universal”) faith, which is meant to be distributed to all nations (see Christ’s instruction in Mt 28:19), and through which Jesus hopes to guide all people to eternal life by way of lifelong acceptance of His sacrifice.
In the same way that Jesus, through His disciples (in the Synoptic Gospels) passed out the fish, so it is through all of His disciples (all of us) that He is at work in passing on the faith. In the Gospel of John, however, it’s worth noting that it is Christ Himself who distributes the loaves and the fishes. Yet, in a way, both approaches say the same thing. As Martin and Wright note, “John thus underscores that Jesus is the ultimate source of the bread for the crowd.” Through us, He is the ultimate source of the spreading of the Gospel: “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me” (Mt 10:40).
Similarly, Christ can be thought of as working through priests and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist as they distribute His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity to His Church. That isn’t to say such other ministers act “in Persona Christi” like priests, but to know that they are filling a similar office to those disciples who helped with the multiplication of loaves should help to increase their appreciation for their position. Yet, appreciation of position should go for all Christians: for again, in another sense, we are all called to pass Christ along to our brethren.
The Catechism teaches that lay Christians “have the right and duty, individually or grouped in associations, to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the earth.” Such evangelization should not be viewed as a chore. Rather, we should strive to keep in mind that we are helping God to do something even more extraordinary than the multiplication of loaves and fishes. After performing this miracle in the Gospel of John, Jesus makes it clear that people should “not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life” (Jn 6:27). It is this food, that which “endures for eternal life,” that today’s faithful brings to the nations: not bread and fish to feed the nations temporally, but the “living bread that came down from heaven” (Jn 6:51) Who has come to feed the nations for eternity.
 Francis Martin and William M. Wright IV, The Gospel of John: Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, Kindle Edition, 21.
 CCC 1335, referencing Mt 14:13-21; 15:32-39.
 CCC, 1364.
 cf. CCC, 2068, referencing 29 LG 24.
 cf. CCC, 2625; from there, cf. 899.
 Martin and Wright, Gospel of John, 115.
 In a note on verses 40-42, NABRE points out that this applies to any of Christ’s disciples.
 CCC, 900.