Jesus Feeds the World through His People

The following article was published in the April 2022 edition of Faith: West Tennessee, the diocesan magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Memphis. I am grateful to the diocese for publishing my work.

In the middle of this month, we celebrate the Sacred Triduum, beginning with Holy Thursday, the moment when Jesus instituted the Eucharist. When we think and learn about the Eucharist, we very quickly find our way to reading the accounts of Jesus’ multiplication miracles. These episodes foreshadow Our Lord’s institution of the Blessed Sacrament at the Last Supper. These episodes also point to the fact that Jesus intends to feed the world through His chosen people, his disciples.

Each of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) contains an incredibly powerful command from Jesus about the people in need of sustenance. In the moment that Our Lord’s disciples mentioned the crowd’s hunger in the “desolate place,” he answered: “You give them something to eat” (Lk. 9:13). This is a clear mandate to share in Jesus’ mission to provide sustenance to the world, and Our Lord wants us to continue to do this today.

Without a doubt, we believe that the pinnacle of what Jesus intends and provides for His people is the Eucharist, His own Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. We know that He has continued to feed His people miraculously throughout Church history, in far greater amounts than one human body ever could produce. He does this specifically through the sacramental priesthood, which is a miracle in itself (ask any priest) and which most of us are not called to receive.

Still, there are other ways that the Lord intends to feed His people, and this is part of what He means when He says, “You give them something to eat.” Jesus intends for all of us to be a unique and integral part of feeding and sustaining the flock. With this plan, the Lord has bestowed on each of us special graces by our Baptisms that allow us to take up this work. These are called charisms.

Discerning and learning charisms is the best ways for a disciple to grow into his or her own unique place in the Church’s mission. The Called and Gifted Workshop, which has been offered in our diocese quite a few times over the last decade, is an amazing opportunity to do just that. This workshop allows a disciple to know which gifts God has granted to her for feeding the rest of the flock. Quite simply, this workshop and process will transform the spiritual life of any disciple who undertakes it in humility and verve.

Another beautiful element of this process is that it leads a disciple back to deeper love for the Eucharist. It creates deeper devotion and more active participation. When a disciple learns that she has gifts by which to feed the Body, she also realizes that she needs to be sustained on the Eucharistic Body of Our Blessed Lord. So, understanding the myriad gifts that God bestows leads us beck to a deeper appreciation for His Ultimate Gift. Thus the circle remains unbroken. Jesus has given Himself to us totally in the Eucharist, and He wants each of us to give ourselves totally to others through the charisms. So, we ought to set out to learn the gifts He has granted to us. Once we have learned those gifts, we are called to use them for His glory and feeding others’ spiritual needs. This is the process by which we will bring more truth, goodness, and beauty into the Church and the world.

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