Eighteenth Ordinary Sunday
Bread and wine at mass
Points to note
This week’s reading is the second of a series of readings centred around the account of the feeding of the five thousand in Jn in Sunday 17. For the five weeks, the readings will be laden with theological themes of: the feeding (Sunday 17); true bread (Sunday 18); the person of Jesus (Sunday 19); Jesus as bread (Sunday 20); and accepting Jesus (Sunday 21).
While it makes sense to present them in such a cycle to adults, it is very difficult for children. I have therefore interpreted it as: preparing the meal (Sunday 17); what we eat (Sunday 18); who we eat with (Sunday 19); the wider church who shares the bread (Sunday 20); and what to do after the meal (Sunday 21).
In all instances, it is important to emphasise the personal and the everyday occurrences that children encounter at meals and parallel them with the meal for their spiritual world.
Man does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Remind the children that Jesus has just fed the five thousand men, with the women and children.
A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St John
(Jn 6: 24-35)
When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered:
“I tell you most solemnly,
you are not looking for me because you have seen miracles but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.
Do not work for food that cannot last,
but work for food that last forever,
the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you,
for on him the Father, God himself has set his approval.”
Then they said to him, “What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?” Jesus gave them this answer, “This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.” So they said, ”What sign will you give to show us that we should believe in you? What work will you do? Our fathers had manna to eat in the desert; as scriptures says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
Jesus answered: “I tell you must solemnly,
it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven,
it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven,
the true bread;
for the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
“Sir,” they said, “give us that bread always.” Jesus answered:
“I am the bread of life.
He who comes to me will never be hungry;
he who believes in me will never thirst.”
This is the Gospel of the Lord
Just as the family at home have meals together, the family of God also have a meal together. The mass. Draw parallels between the family at home and the family of God. There is a dining table (the altar table) with a table-cloth over it (the altar cloth). There is food on the table (the bread and wine) and lots of diners (the congregation). Discuss why the bread at mass looks the way it does. There is no yeast in it. This is because when the Jews left Egypt, they left in a hurry and had no time to wait for the dough to rise. Our mass is a successor to the Jewish Passover meal, which celebrated the deliverance of the Jews from Egypt
Discuss what bread represents to most people. It is important especially in places where bread is eaten everyday. Discuss where there are places with famine, etc. How important do the people there think bread is?
Discuss what is meant by eating the flesh of Jesus. Remember it is not just that our body is eating the physical flesh of Jesus, but rather our spirit eating the spiritual flesh of Jesus. Interestingly, there was a medieval heresy that the Church condemned, which held out the view that the bread becomes the physical flesh. Explain that by eating him spiritually, we bring the spirit of Jesus into us. Wouldn’t we all like that?
If asked, explain that the wine that is used must be alcoholic, but there are set rules as to how alcoholic. There is a maximum level for obvious reasons. There is also a set minimum so that the wine will keep. Also, the wine must be a fruit of the grape. So, no cider. The rules do not say that the wine must be red to symbolise blood. I have taken white wine at mass before.
Discuss what the wine means to people. In countries where wine is drunk a lot, it is normally drunk at dinner time. It is the kind of dinner where people are relaxed and the meal could take quite a long time because people chat a lot over the meal. So, wine represents fellowship to these people.
Discuss what is meant when we say we drink the blood of Jesus. Jews and Muslims do not eat meat with blood in it. Halal & kosher therefore doesn’t just mean no pork, but also that the animal is slaughtered in such a way that all the blood is drained out. This is because they believe that blood contains life and life can only belong to God. Going by that therefore, we can say that the blood of Jesus is his life. When we drink the wine, we are drinking the life of Jesus into us.
Therefore, at the end of mass, we are all filled with the spirit and the life of Jesus after partaking of the bread and wine at mass. With the spirit and life of Jesus in us we can go out and be better Christians. That is the meaning of spiritual sustenance given to us at mass.