The Peace and Love of the Lord be with you all.
Every time, the Holy Mother Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the counsellor and teacher, bring again and alive the sacred paschal mysteries of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The treasure of our faith, and aptly put by the second Vatican as the source and summit of all liturgical action is the Eucharist. The Psalmist declares “I would feed you with finest of wheat…” (Ps 81:16). The entrance antiphon for the beautiful celebration of the solemnity of Corpus Christi, drawn from this Psalm declares. “He fed them with finest wheat” tugging our minds to the blessings that come to us from the Father through Jesus in the Holy Spirit.
The nation of Israel had been endeared to the almighty God out of his unflinching love and not on merits. In the episode of the deliverance from bondage to the Promised Land, the welfare of the people was solely on God. The book of Deuteronomy is clear on this all provident attitude of God the Father as directed towards Jacob whose name will become Israel (the twelve tribes) as it says, “He made him eat the produce of the field and made him suck honey out of the rock and oil out of flinty rock. Curds from the herds and milk from the flock, with fats from lambs and rams, herds of bison and goats with the finest of the wheat and of the blood of the grapes you drank wine” (Deut 32:13-14). By the standards of the Israelites, it was not the best of choices since they had been used to the taste of the delicacies of bondage. How sad can this be for they cried “O that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” (Num 11:4-6). Think of this for a moment, is there anything that could better what comes from the Lord, the Father who Jesus says give good things to those who ask? (See Matt 7:11).
Jesus, also expresses the providence of the Father in the compassion he shows to the hungry crowd who had been with Him all day and “give them something to eat” he says to the disciples (Matt 14:16; Mark 6:37; Luke 9:13). This particular statement is recorded in all Synoptic Gospels since it is the episode of the feeding of the five thousand and the crowds were fed at the instruction of Jesus. The emphasis however is on that statement, “give them something to eat.”In one of the event of his resurrection appearances to his disciples early in the morning, an amazing thing occurs as Jesus himself makes breakfast for his disciples (John 21:12).
The Bible touches on every aspect of motherhood: Conception, Pregnancy, The pain of birth and Nursing. The entire endeavour of God as a mother is not some unfounded conjectures but one attested to by the scriptures. The first book of the Bible speaks of human-kind created in God’s reflection, “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). The Prophet Hosea is more explicit when he speaks about God saying “yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know I healed them. I led them with cords of compassion, with bands of love, and I became to them as one who raises an infant to his cheeks and I bent down to them and fed them” (Hosea 11:3-4). The Prophet Isaiah pictures vividly the motherly nature of God who talks in human terms of not forgetting his children even if a weaning mother does (Isaiah 49:15). Jesus also expressed this motherly nature in the Gospel when he spoke of his compassion for Jerusalem as being like that of a mother hen for her chicks (Matt 23:37). In a more positive vein, the heavenly Jerusalem is the “mother” that houses all Christians (Gal 4:26).
To be “fed” depicts the motherly nature of God who bore forth the people of Israel. The Holy Mother Church here on earth is a part of the heavenly Jerusalem hence in the mandate of Jesus to Peter after his resurrection, he says to him as Head of the Mother Church “feed my lambs, feed my sheep” (Jn 21:15 and 17). The Lord Jesus wishes that all of us be fed with the Sacraments and his Holy words. God continues to feed his people through the hands and faculties of his sacred ministers ordained for this hallowed endeavour.
With Finest Wheat…
All the image of what is pleasant and sweet are usually used to depict the choice of the gifts of God which cannot be matched. The psalmist says “taste and see that the Lordis good” (Psalm 34:8). As recorded in the book of Deuteronomy the Lord fed the people with “fat lambs and rams, herds of Bashan” (Deut 32:14). One very fine communion hymn titled “gift of finest wheat” was composed by Omer Westendorf with the lyrics “you satisfy the hungry heart with the gift of finest wheat. Come give to us, o saving Lord, the bread of life to eat.” This hymn evokes the agrarian image of “finest wheat”, the source of bread, drawing our minds to the words of Jesus in John 6:35 “I am the bread of life, he who comes to me shall not hunger…” The “finest wheat” connotes the bread which is untainted and beaming with all freshness as Christ Jesus was without the stain of sin. The “finest of wheat” is not susceptible to corruption as his body knew no corruption or decay even as it laid in the grave and the “finest of wheat” expresses superiority in quality, capable of bringing life and life to the full to those who feed upon it.
The Body and Blood of Jesus is the best gift that has been given to mankind, where through the Church, everyone is invited to partake of this sacred banquet. When Jesus says “Amen, Amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink” (John 6:53-54), it is an invitation to receive the gift of his very self that we might have eternal life, a scriptural point for the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and an important aspect of our faith. These are really strong words.
A number of Catholics have accepted this invitation of Jesus through the Church as they have gone through catechesis and have had their first Holy Communion. Frequent reception of Holy Communion is a good attitude and an opening of our heart and entire being to be like Jesus. What would deter us from receiving such a marvelous gift that none can compare to? Have we lost the sense of the real presence of Jesus in the sacred bread? Even after so much talks about the Eucharist, are we asking the age-long question of the Israelite who when they saw the mannathat God had sent them said “what is it?” (Ex 16:15). Do we like them also prefer and long for the ‘meat and fish’ of this world to this awesome food from heaven?
The Lord continues to feed us through the hands of his sacred ministers that our souls may not be starved and parched of the food and drink that can bring life. The Lord God himself says “open wide your mouth and I will fill it” (Ps 81:10); he fills us up with life, abundance of life. Know that today, if anything persists in deterring you from being fed with the “finest wheat”, it is not worth the blessing and sweetness that comes along with being filled with life.
May the Body and Blood strengthen us all on our earthly pilgrimage and keep us safe for eternal life. Amen.
† Alfred Adewale Martins
Archbishop of Lagos.
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