Recent events in Fort McMurray have revealed amazing images of the sacrifice for others. Friends and strangers gave freely to the fill the needs of others. Donations supporting the relief efforts flowed in from across Canada and beyond. But most striking were the sacrifices made by individuals. Evacuation centers were filled with volunteers tending to the needs of people displaced by the fire. A man with an auto pick-up truck drove around, picking up vehicles abandoned on the sides of roads and returned them to their owners – at no charge. Many were the stories of people who offered gas to those who ran out on the highway as they fled the flames. These and a host of other stories untold express the human heart and its willingness to sacrifice for others.
Sacrifice is often a hard word for us. It makes demands on us. It presents us with challenges. It forces us to make conscious choices. Yet, sacrifice also brings meaning to our lives and offers us opportunities to make commitments which are both meaningful and the way to fulfillment. In many ways we humans are naturally disposed to sacrifice, for it is an expression of one of our most wonderful human traits – we are basically free. We can make choices and even challenging, demanding choices. Not only that, we actually do make sacrifices for others.
Sacrifice is what we hear of in this Sunday’s readings. In the Gospel (Luke 9:11-17) we hear the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 with five loaves and two fish. How does he do this? No matter how, it is a wonder. Some would read this story literally and in this way see Jesus using power to multiply a little available food so that there was enough to feed multitude. Others might read it differently. Perhaps it is a story with even greater meaning.
The story can be seen as representing Jesus’ whole person and message as well as what Jesus is able to draw out of people. Humanly, when we lack or have little, we sometimes draw back into ourselves to protect our own resources, whether that be food or time or energy or whatever. By nature we take care of ourselves. But not always, we often, even more often find that we reach out to others who share the need. The story that Luke tells us helps us to look beyond.
The 5000 are seated in groups. Jesus takes the bread and fish, says a prayer of blessing, breaks the food up and asks the disciples to set it before the crowd. What has taken place is very much in keeping with what Jesus often causes as he announces the Reign of God. In the Reign people look after one another. People are willing to share what they have with one another. Their care for each other reflects God’s care and compassion.
The sacrifice we witness in our sharing of the Eucharist expresses a basic truth of our faith. Eucharist is more than a sharing of Jesus’ physical body and blood. In following Jesus’ call: “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor.11:24) we imitate him. And what Jesus sacrificed was more than his physical existence. It was his whole person and life. Eucharist is our expression of commitment and willingness to sacrifice for the Reign, to sacrifice for one another. In Eucharist we reach beyond our confined personal world. Gathered together we acknowledge that all we have is God’s gift and we honour those around us as a loving and sharing community of God’s People.