Friends, our Gospel today focuses on St. John’s intense meditation on the meaning of the Eucharist. The tone is set with the familiar story of the feeding of the five thousand, the only miracle story mentioned in each of the four Gospels. This scene deeply affected the first Christians.
Jesus instructs the crowd to recline on the grass. Taking the barley loaves and dried fish, Jesus makes a meal that satisfies the enormous crowd. They are hungry, tired, and worn out from their exertions, and Jesus gives them sustenance for the day.
For Thomas Aquinas, the great metaphor for the Eucharist is sustenance, food for the journey. Baptism defines us, making us sons and daughters of God; Confirmation confirms and deepens this identity; Marriage and Holy Orders seal us in our life’s vocation. These are sacraments offered once at key moments in one’s life.
Then there is the Eucharist, which is daily food, nourishment to get us through the day-to-day. How effective would we be if we never ate, or ate only on special occasions and in a festive environment? Not very. So, in the spiritual life, we must eat and drink or we will not have the strength.