Loaves, fishes, nourishment and the power of Eucharist

Filipinos receive Communion during a Mass at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress opening ceremony in Cebu, Philippines, Jan. 24. (CNS photo/Francis R. Malasig, EPA)

Filipinos receive Communion during a Mass at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress opening ceremony in Cebu, Philippines, Jan. 24. (CNS photo/Francis R. Malasig, EPA)

By Simone Orendain

CEBU, Philippines — At a gathering of thousands of Catholics from different corners of the world, inevitably you will hear comparisons to the Gospel passage describing Jesus taking five loaves of bread and a couple of fish and multiplying them to feed the group.

It happened when Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron spoke today before a packed pavilion of more than 12,000 delegates at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress. He said Jesus wanted to give food to the mass of people and took what his disciples were able to scrounge around for.

“Jesus, offering them to the Father, multiplies them under the feeding of the mighty crowd,” he said. “There’s the liturgy of the Eucharist. Jesus, up and down the centuries to the present day, feeds his hungry people.”

The bishop said it was an act of giving to the Lord what little one has, and it returns back to the giver manifold. It’s the giver who benefits because, as Bishop Barron said, “God doesn’t need anything.”

When 12 baskets of food were leftover, he said, it was symbolic of gathering in the 12 tribes under Israel.

“Look around this room,” Bishop Barron remarked. “You’ve got a bishop from Los Angeles, California, speaking to people in Cebu, Philippines, from all over the world. What are we all here for? To worship the God of Israel. How strange and how wonderful that the prophetic identity of ancient Israel has come true and we can see it in front of us now. There’s the 12 baskets, the 12 tribes. It’s true isn’t it? It’s true. … That’s the power of the Eucharist.”

Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, Myanmar, gives Communion during the 51st International Eucharistic Congress opening Mass in Cebu, Philippines, Jan. 24. (CNS photo/Francis R. Malasig, EPA)

Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, Myanmar, gives Communion during the 51st International Eucharistic Congress opening Mass in Cebu, Philippines, Jan. 24. (CNS photo/Francis R. Malasig, EPA)

Days before, a Japanese delegate who speaks English said her companion was deeply moved by the opening Mass of the congress.

Sister Yasuko Taguchi of Sapporo said her companion “was in tears, and she said this Mass was just like the Mass in the Bible, John (chapter) 6, when 5,000 people were fed.”

The opening Mass had a crowd of about 250,000, and Communion stations were set up all along the section dividers. I noticed a snapping sound, then I saw some eucharistic ministers were breaking the Eucharist into bits, until other ministers came around with more hosts. Even I thought of the loaves and fishes as I observed this.

There would be other Masses after that, with more to come until this Sunday. One “sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist” each day and, with this large gathering, the expectation is that all will find nourishment for their faith.

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