July 29, 2018
Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi
The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish is the only miracle account to appear in all 4 Gospels. In fact, Matthew and Mark include 2 different versions of this story in their Gospels, so Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the multitudes appears 6 times in the Gospels. Obviously this narrative was very important to early Christians. Why was it important?
This miracle shed light on the early Church’s experience of the Eucharist, where from so little came so much. From a little bread and a little wine the eternal Son of God gave these first Christians the gift of Himself. The One whom the whole world could not contain shared the abundance of His life with them in what appeared to be so little.
In addition, the early Church experienced the multiplication of its members through the celebration of the Eucharist. From a few faithful followers of the Risen Christ there was born a community of faith spreading like wildfire across the known world. There was always more of Himself that the Risen Jesus wanted to share with those who hungered for him.
The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves also propelled the early members of the Church to care for those in greatest need. As Jesus fed the hungry, so would Jesus’ followers.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we hear how those who joined the first Christian community would sell their possessions and place the proceeds at the feet of the apostles to be distributed to those in need. Also, the early Christians became known for feeding the hungry and taking care of the poor who were not Christian. An emperor hostile to the Christians commented on this fact, noting that Christians “support not only their own poor, but ours as well.”
So, the early Church’s experience of the Eucharist and its care for the poor flowed from the miracle of the loaves where Jesus fed the multitudes and there was even food leftover.
The miracle of Eucharist was at the very center of Blessed Stanley Rother’s life. Growing up on a farm in Okarche, Oklahoma, as a member of a German-Catholic family, to the end of his life in Guatemala, the bountiful blessing of the Eucharist nourished Stanley Francis Rother on his journey of faith. From the time he received his First Holy Communion in the early 1940’s at Holy Trinity Church in Okarche until he received his last Holy Communion that last week of July 1981, the celebration of the Eucharist sustained Blessed Stanley.
He came to know the super-abundance of God’s love for him in Christ Jesus as he received the great gift of the Living Bread come down from Heaven week after week. Working hard on the family farm six days a week, Sunday came as a welcome day of rest and rejoicing, the feasting at the table of the Lord leading to the Sunday feast at the family farm. Franz and Gertrude Rother, the parents of Blessed Stanley, passed on to their son the gift of Faith, teaching him by word and example to trust in God’s goodness and generosity, to trust that the hand of the Lord would feed him and provide for all his needs.
As a priest, the celebration of the Eucharist was the Source and Summit of his daily life of faith. It was only by being so intimately joined to the Risen Lord in the Eucharist that Fr. Rother could serve his people joyfully and generously. Feasting on the Good Shepherd’s love for him, Fr. Rother could shepherd his people in Guatemala through the dark and dangerous valleys of life.
The incredible miracle of the Eucharist, the great and unimaginable gift of the Son of God’s life given to and for His people, would define the end of Fr. Rother’s life on earth. The words of Jesus became his own — “This is my body, given up for you” — as he laid down his life in love of the people of Santiago Atitlan. The words of Jesus took flesh in Fr. Rother’s life—“This is my blood, poured out for you”—as he poured out his blood on the floor of his own rectory.
Blessed Stanley knew that as long as he gave to Jesus the little he had, that it would be multiplied beyond what he could imagine.
Blessed Stanley’s generous service to the poorest of the poor in a remote corner of the world also flowed from the bounty of the Eucharistic celebration. Because of the miracle of the Eucharist, where a little bread and a little wine given to God become the living presence of the Eternal Son of God, Blessed Stanley knew that as long as he gave to Jesus the little he had, that it would be multiplied beyond what he could imagine. That the as long as he gave to the Lord what he had, the Lord would use it in ways he could never ever dream of before.
For example, take Blessed Stanley’s skills as an Oklahoma farmer. He put these to use in Guatemala to help his people reap a much more productive harvest from the land. By teaching them how to make the best use of the land and showing them modern farming techniques, what had been a few loaves became enough food to feed thousands.
Or look at the way Blessed Stanley came to know and love these people who were at first, strangers to him. Arriving without knowledge of their difficult language, he patiently persevered in getting to know those placed in his care, living and working alongside them, cultivating their faith, learning their language, respecting their dignity and earning their trust. Blessed Stanley would learn the native Tzutihil language, celebrate Mass in Tzutihil, and even make possible a printed translation of the Bible in Tzutihil.
He would go to his parishioner’s homes to share a meal with them, even though their food was much different from what his mother fixed him on the farm in Okarche, and even though their food was never completely sanitized. So, without fail after dining in their homes he would become ill upon returning to the rectory, but that did not prevent him from going out again to share another meal, Fr. Rother knew how important it was to his people that he be in their homes and receive what they had to share with him.
Stanley Francis Rother’s example of a faith-filled life centered on the Eucharist reminds us that the call to holiness is for everyone. Blessed Stanley’s life challenges us to live out our own unique call to love God by loving our neighbor.
In March of this year, about 6 months after Fr. Rother was beatified, Pope Francis released his apostolic exhortation entitled: “Rejoice and be Glad: The Call to Holiness in Today’s World.” In this wonderful little book, the Pope challenges every Christian to live out their baptismal call to holiness, and he gives very practical advice to do so.
Pope Francis points out that the call to holiness comes to us in our own uniquely gifted lives. That this call is for everyone, each in his or her own way. Our response to this call of the Lord will look different in its specific details from Fr. Rother’s response, but what will be the same is love will be the driving force.
So, the Pope says:
For those who are married love one another as Christ loves the Church.
For those who work, do so with integrity and skill in service of others.
For those who are parents and grandparents, take up your responsibility to teach your children the ways of the faith. F
or those in authority, live out this vocation not by making your power felt but by seeking the common good.
Whatever our station in life, young or old, single or married, we are invited to share the life and love of Christ we receive at the Eucharist.
Fed by the Lord of Life, we become living bread for a world hungering for God.
To learn more about Blessed Stanley Rother’s life, the cause for his canonization, or the Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine being built in his honor, visit http://stanleyrother.org/.