'My father is asking for the Bread of Life.' Sunday Reflections, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
The Mass of St Gilles, Master of Saint Gilles [Web Gallery of Art]
Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)
Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)
Gospel Mark 6:41-51 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)
Then the Jews began to complain about Jesus because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life.
Sto Niño Church, Lianga, Surigao del Sur [Photo:Benjie Otagan]
Nearly twenty-five years ago when I was parish priest in Lianga in the Diocese of Tandag, which covers the province of Surigao del Sur on the east coast of Mindanao, one of our volunteer catechists came to me on a Saturday afternoon and told me that her father, who was gravely ill, had asked to receive 'the Bread of Life'. I discovered that Mario, as I'll call him, had been married three times, having been widowed twice.
When I arrived at the house there were children from his three marriages there, many of them with their own children. There was a palpable sense of joy in the home and Mario was fully alert. After hearing his confession I invited his family to join us as we celebrated the Sacrament of the Sick before giving him Holy Communion.
After a period of silence and the closing prayers of the rite I asked those closest to their father/grandfather to place their hands on him. My idea was that we would have some spontaneous prayer. However, Mario changed this into something far more beautiful. He took one of his grandchildren, only a few months old, into his arms, embraced and kissed the child. Then he embraced each of his children and grandchildren and kissed them. Almost everyone, particularly Mario himself, was aware that he had not long to live. He was making a joyful farewell to his family, full of hope because he had received God's forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation followed by the nourishment of God himself in the Bread of Life.
In the First Reading an angel wakes up the weary prophet Elijah twice with the command 'Get up and eat'. On this occasion Mario's family in effect said the same to me, even though I wasn't weary like Elijah, as they had prepared a snack for me, which is not usual when the priest makes a sick call. However, on this occasion I thought it 'truly right and just' as the joy of the Lord was clearly evident in Mario and his family. He knew that 'the journey' would not 'be too much for' him.
The bread that I will give, says the Lord, is my flesh for the life of the world (Cf John 6:51, Communion Antiphon).
Schola Gregoriana Abba Caelum, Seoul, Korea
Antiphona ad Communionem Communion Antiphon
Panis, quem dedero, caro mea est pro saeculi vita, dicit Dominus.
The bread that I will give, says the Lord, is my flesh for the life of the world.
Ego sum panis vivus
Sung by Amici Cantores
Sung by Amici Cantores
This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die (John 6:48-50 - from today's Gospel).