The Power of One Mass

Homily given by Dcn. Bill Bach, Passionist Oblate, to the Carmel Home

JOHN 6:1-15

Of all the miracles recorded by John and the other three Gospel writers, Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fishes certainly captured the attention of a lot of people. Because He was attracting more and more followers, Jesus was definitely getting under the skin of the Pharisees and the elders. We heard about their fury and murderous intent in the first reading. Here in the opening verse of John 6, Jesus intended to sit down with His apostles but the crowd quickly swelled to 5000. He understood their hunger and He asked Philip where they could buy enough food for them. Can you imagine a crowd like that dropping in at a moment’s notice and somehow you are supposed to take care of them. Andrew mentioned that he knew of only one person with any food whatsoever and that boy had only 5 barley loaves and 2 fish. Jesus simply said, “Have the people recline.” And they did and all had more than enough, in fact there was a lot left over. And Jesus told them, “Gather the fragments so that nothing will be wasted.” And the left overs filled 12 wicker baskets. What a sumptuous banquet.

Throughout salvation history God has always provided for his people. To provide for the prophet Elijah, God blessed the woman with flour and oil so that it did not run out. When David and his men were in flight, God allowed them to eat of the show bread in the sanctuary. God used Joseph in Egypt to gather and then ration the food to sustain the people during the drought. God provided Moses with manna and quail when his people were hungry. Today, Jesus will do the same. At each consecration in the Mass, through the power entrusted to his priests, each host becomes the Body of Christ. Those not consumed are gathered to feed those unable to be present.

Besides giving Himself to us so superabundantly, as Body, Blood , Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist, he then sends us out to give ourselves to others. When we are open to His will, He will show us the way. May we receive and accept the graces necessary to be obedient and follow Him.

This reminds me of the story about the elderly woman who entered a butcher’s shop. Her entry interrupted the butcher who was in conversation with a military officer. When asked what she wanted she said she had come to beg for a little meat but had no money. The butcher said, “Only a little meat, but how much are you going to give me?” “I am sorry. I have no money but I will hear Mass for you.” Both the officer and the butcher were indifferent to religion and began to scoff at her answer. But the butcher told her to go and hear Mass for him and when she returned he would give her as much meat as the Mass was worth.

An hour later she returned and approached the counter and the butcher and he said, “All right, then, now we will see.” He took a slip of paper and wrote on it “I heard a Mass for you.” Then he put the paper on the scales and a tiny bone on the other side and nothing happened. Next he placed a piece of meat instead of the bone but again the paper proved heavier.

The captain had stayed on to see what would happen. By this time, both men were looking at each other and feeling ashamed of their mockery.

The butcher placed a large piece of meat on the balance, but the paper held its own. As might be expected the butcher examined his scales but they were all right. Then he placed an even heavier piece of meat on the scale but still the paper outweighed it.

Exasperated he said kindly to the woman, “What do you want my good woman, must I give you a whole leg of mutton?” And he tried a leg of mutton. The paper was still heavier.

The butcher converted and promised the woman a daily ration of meat. He kept his promise and his business flourished. The officer left the butcher shop a changed man, and became a daily attendant at Mass and trained his children to follow his example. Two of his sons became priests.

This story was told by the one of those sons, who became a priest -- a Father of the Sacred Heart; -- his brother became a Jesuit.

We know that every Mass is worth as much as the sacrifice of our Lord’s life, suffering and death, and so we too are invited, even empty handed and hungry to sit down and eat not only with the Lord, but of the Lord. He is our Good Shepherd who provides abundantly and leads us by safe paths to be with Him all the days of our lives.