18th Sunday Ordinary Time 2012 Bread of Life Reflections on Sources and Summit

Scripture readings for Sunday's Mass are here

Various reflections on the Gospel from St Louis Centre for Liturgy here 
and The Edge of Enclosure here.

 Image source

Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium stated, “The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’”

So first some current news from my homeland of Ireland on the Eucharist and then how that translates to a wider perspective.

A spokesman for the Association of Catholic Priests has warned that the Irish Church faces a Eucharistic "famine", unless it realistically addresses the shortage of priests which is going to make itself felt in the next 10 to 15 years.

Fr Brendan Hoban said that if current trends continue, the Diocese of Killala, where he serves, will have just eight priests in 2032, all of whom will be in their 60's or 70's. 

He called for a return of the old tradition of ordaining "viri probati" - proven married or single men - whom he suggested would provide a support for parishes which otherwise will be left without the Mass.

Meanwhile , speaking atop Ireland's holiest mountain, Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam, was joined by an estimated 12,000 pilgrims including Archbishop Charles Brown, the new Papal nuncio, for the traditional Reek Sunday ascent of the 800-metre mountain on the last Sunday of July. 

The Summit of Croagh Patrick, aka "The Reek" (Wikimedia Commons)

Image source 

This tradition spans over 1500 years and is the place where St. Patrick fasted for 40 days during Lent in the fifth century. 

  Many pilgrims, as an act of penance undertake their walk barefoot. The iconic legend goes that when descending, St Patrick threw a silver bell down the side of the mountain, knocking the pagan she-demon Corra from the sky and banishing all the snakes from Ireland as they had attacked him during his fast !

Brown, the first Papal nuncio to Ireland to complete the gruelling climb, spent about five hours on the mountain chatting to pilgrims and hearing confessions. 
 Speaking during his short Mass, he said the climb  was like a pathway to life.

Archbishop Neary said he hopes the lasting legacy of June's International Eucharistic Congress will be to bring "the gift of peace, forgiveness and understanding" to the Catholic Church and to wider society.

This video shows the climb to the summit of Croagh Patrick and includes some footage of a previous Reek Sunday.


Referring to the clerical abuse scandals that have rocked the Irish Church, Neary said "on this mountain of St. Patrick in the year of the Eucharistic congress in Ireland perhaps we might see the beauty in the rich inheritance of our faith despite the shadow of recent darker days."

Underlining the devotion of Irish Catholics during centuries of persecution when the celebration of the Eucharist was illegal, Neary said "our ancestors were not gullible people who risked their lives as they made their way to some hidden glen to gather around the Mass rock. 

 They felt deeply the need to celebrate the Eucharist. Their strength lay in their closeness to God and to each other."

"They learned their prayers around the fire and turned to God in those same words in days of joy and nights of pain, sorrow and loneliness," he said.

He urged Irish Catholics to be more upbeat, insisting "there is so much good here that has been swallowed up in criticism."

"There is still a vibrant faith expressed in the many people who trek to daily Mass, those who go out to care for the poor and all those who direct their energies to deprived children and the forgotten elderly."

Neary also said the Church had to be present to reach out to Catholics who no longer practise the faith.

"Looking down from the summit of Croagh Patrick today we can see again a beautiful country and a revitalized Church stretching her arms out to all who want to come home," he said.


"Some, sadly, in these days do not find any attraction in their faith. They may have abandoned the Mass because they find it repetitive, structured or as many people describe it as boring. Maybe this is because we have emphasised too often the ritual and rubrics or the notion of celebration without drawing attention to the task or mission of the Mass," Neary said.

  • Click here for an article by Fr. Ron Rolheiser on The Eucharist as New Manna from here.

  • His book : Our One Great Act of Fidelity, Waiting For Christ In The Eucharist is reviewed at NCR here.

Other Related Posts

  "When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there,
they themselves got into boats
and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus."

Gospel of John 6:24..

 The village of Capernaum on the shore of the sea of Galilee from the air.  
Image source
There are also some more beautiful photographs of Capernaum and the surrounding areas around the Sea of Galilee  here.

It's not just in Ireland that the churches are emptying.The crisis in the church in Europe and America is the same.

Maybe the church needs to switch on "big time "to the fact that people are just as spiritually hungry for justice and truth today as they ever were, still searching to be filled with food that will last !

We are just as much a part of the continuity of the crowds that in today's Gospel thronged across the sea and the fields to see and hear Jesus and to be fed.

We are still as hungry to reach the source and summit of meaning but maybe we are looking for different ways of getting there and new more imaginative ways of being church in order to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

Pilgrimages and spiritual retreats have never been more popular. The demand for spiritual direction is at an all time high.

I am struck forcibly today by the image of the beautifully open landscape of Capernaum on the shores of the Sea of Galilee where today's Gospel on the Bread of Life locates. For a large part of Jesus life this was His home and may be an allegory for the open wild unrestricted spaces where we still long to find and be with Him. 

Maybe for many who do not go to church they are expressing a desire for dissolving some of the tribal boundaries of "churchism." 

In exchange or in addition to church are we keen to gather in other settings where the art of spiritual communication and transcendent experience of God's manna can be felt in a less threatening and more all embracing way ?

I am held by this opening phrase from John:

"When the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they got into those boats and went to Capernaum, looking for him."

Of course, Jesus was as always a step ahead of them, just as He is still today, even though I may struggle to always realise what that means !

 At  Iglesia Descalza blog, Jose Antionio Pagola's reflection on today's Gospel ends with this potent statement :
"On hearing His words, the people of Capernaum cry out to Him from the bottom of their hearts, "Sir, give us this bread always." From our wavering faith, we don't dare ask anything similar. Perhaps we're only concerned about daily food. And, sometimes, just ours."

In his wonderful book, Against An Infinite Horizon, The Finger of God In Our Everyday Lives, Fr. Ron Rolheiser writes beautifully about the Paschal Imagination and says:

"We are being asked to re-imagine where in our faith life and our church structures we are no longer up to the task to understand and respond to what we are experiencing.

He says so much of the frustration and stagnation in Christian circles today stems from a failure of the imagination. 

" But Christ is not dead. He is still about His Father's business in the world, the mystery of His death and resurrection is still being lived out daily, and His spirit is still stirring hearts. However, we must have the imaginative radar to read where and how this is taking place."

The challenge he throws down is this :

"We must be able to look at things not from a "petrified imagination " or with a fuzzy uncritical imagination but we must respond with a paschal imagination - " we can look at the pattern of death and resurrection in Christ and then move on to name  where we've died, claim where we've been born. know what old bodies we need to let ascend, and recognise and live with the NEW spirit that God is actually giving to us."

 Finally, this extract from Pierre de Teilhard Chardin in this excellent post in 2009 from my friend Fr. Austin at A Concord Pastor Comments

"Once upon a time men took into your temple the first fruits of their harvests, the flower of their flocks. But the offering you really want, the offering you mysteriously need every day to appease your hunger, to slake your thirst is nothing less than the growth of the world borne ever onwards in the stream of universal becoming.

Receive, O Lord, this all-embracing host which your whole creation, moved by your magnetism, offers you at this dawn of a new day.

This bread, our toil, is of itself, I know, but an immense fragmentation; this wine, our pain, is no more, I know, than a draught that dissolves. 

Yet in the very depths of this formless mass you have implanted — and this I am sure of, for I sense it — a desire, irresistible, hallowing, which makes us cry out, believer and unbeliever alike: ‘Lord, make us one.’

And now for some creative power of song.....

Remembrance Communion Song by Matt Redman

Bread For The World 
by Bernadette Farrell - Notre Dame Choir
This video always moves me.


Bread for the world:
a world of hunger.
Wine for all peoples:
people who thirst.
May we who eat
be bread for others.
May we who drink
pour out our love.

1. Lord Jesus Christ,
you are the bread of life,
broken to reach
and heal the wounds
of human pain.
Where we divide your people,
you are waiting there
on bended knee
to wash our feet with endless care.

2. Lord Jesus Christ,
you are the wine of peace,
poured into hearts once broken
and where dryness sleeps.
Where we are tired and weary,
you are waiting there
to be the way which beckons us
beyond despair.

3. Lord Jesus Christ,
you call us to your feast,
at which the rich and powerful
have become the least.
Where we survive on others
in our human greed,
you walk among us
begging for your every need.

Taize Chant

Eat This Bread Drink This Wine

 I Am The Bread of Life John Michael Talbot

At The Table of Grace: by Phillips, Craig and Dean

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