I’m sure as Catholics we’re reflecting about many things during this pandemic. The most important, however is the primacy of the supernatural order over the natural order; the fact that as fragile, mortal human beings we cannot live by our own powers or efforts but are totally dependant on God.
From today’s Gospel we see clearly that supernatural food which comes from God is infinitely more essential to us than natural food. In the Gospel, Jesus the Son of God sees that the crowd of 5,000 in front of Him are not just hungry physically, but that they hunger also for something beyond this world – eternal life. And by His boundless generosity he feeds them abundantly in the multiplication of loaves and fish.
This great miracle anticipates the Last Supper, the Holy Eucharist. Just as Jesus feeds His people through the ministry of the disciples who distribute the loaves and fish, so He feeds His people now, not with bread and fish, but with His very self. He feeds His people through His Holy Church by the ministry of His priests. The Eucharist, the greatest of all Sacraments, is the food we need for the journey to heaven. Saint John Paul II once said: “In order to live man needs food and drink. In order to gain eternal life man needs the Eucharist.”
During three months of this year, you could go Lidl or Tesco for the food we need to keep us physically alive, but you couldn’t come here to receive the Food that leads to eternal life.
Of course, when it comes to the gathering of people, Governments and bishops are called to make prudential judgments in the time of pandemic – tough decisions which lead even to the House of God being closed. But not being able to come to Mass in that time mustn’t make us forget that Holy Communion is the most important Food on earth. If we truly believe that what we receive at the altar is the Body and Blood of Jesus Himself then all natural food, although needed for us to stay alive, is secondary to this Supernatural Food. For it is the very living Bread of Life – Jesus Himself – which brings us to union with God and is the food that leads us to heaven.
As St Francis of Assisi once said: "What wonderful majesty! What stupendous condescension! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the whole universe, God and the Son of God, should humble Himself like this under the form of a little bread, for our salvation.”