What Does the Jewish Passover Have To Do with Jesus?
In the Gospel of John, the Evangelist often refers to the miracles Jesus performs as signs because they point to something more significant, and some of the signs or important events happen near the time of Passover. The Passover was and is the Jewish celebration of their deliverance from their captivity in Egypt. After the Angel of death passed over the homes of the Israelites that were marked with the blood of a lamb, he struck down the firstborn of Pharaoh and all the Egyptians. After this event, Pharaoh allowed the Israelites to leave.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the Passover, because he is the Lamb of God who shed his blood to save us from eternal death. That’s why the Feast of the Passover is so significant in the ministry of Jesus.
Jesus’ first miracle took place at the wedding feast of Cana. We remember how he changed the water in six stone jars, each holding twenty to thirty gallons, into wine. A Scripture commentary states, “The vast quantity recalls the prophecies of abundance in the last days.” This miracle or sign not only fulfills prophecy; it is Eucharistic because it points toward the wine that will be changed into the blood of Christ “…which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
After this first miracle of Jesus, the Scripture says that he and his mother and disciples went down to Capernaum for only a few days. Then: “Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.”
What Does Jesus Show Us Through the Multiplication of Loaves & Fish?
Today’s Gospel also mentions that the Jewish feast of Passover is near—and the miracle, or sign that Jesus will perform, the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, is also Eucharistic. It points to the bread that will be changed into the Body of Christ, which will feed the multitudes until the end of time. An interesting point in this Gospel is that Jesus asks Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” even though Jesus already knew what he was going to do. There is a message here for us: When we are confronted with challenges and trials and we ask the Lord for help, he may ask us what contribution we will make to resolve the difficulty. Perhaps it is our prayer and fasting, or it may be the use of the gifts that we have received from the Holy Spirit. We all have something that the Lord can use, and he wants us to be involved in the resolution.
Another interesting point: “Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.” This abundance of grass means it was springtime, which again is the time of Passover. About three weeks ago, our pilgrim group stayed on the Mt. of Beatitudes where we could over look the beautiful Sea of Galilee—and this very spot where Jesus performed this miracle. As you look down from the mount toward the Sea, you’ll find an area almost shaped like an amphitheater which could easily accommodate thousands of people. This is where Jesus multiplied five loaves and two fish in order to feed thousands of his followers. This was a real miracle that showed Jesus’ power over matter and it happened in a real place that you can visit today.
This miracle of the multiplication is a prelude to Jesus’ discourse on the Eucharist, the Bread of Life, which he proclaims to the crowds seeking him out the next day. He admonishes them because they were interested primarily in the food he had provided. He then explains to them at great length that he is the Bread of Life which they must eat if they are to have eternal life. Four times he tells them they must eat his flesh and drink his blood if they are to live forever. Many of his followers found this teaching too difficult to accept and would no longer follow him.
The final Passover that Jesus celebrates is what we call the Last Supper. This event ties together the miracle of the wine and the miracle of the loaves. At the Last Supper, Jesus not only teaches his Apostles that they must be servants of one another by washing their feet; he also institutes the priesthood and the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. The Apostles who faithfully stayed with Jesus because they believed in him, will finally understand how Jesus will give them his blood to drink and his flesh to eat. They become his first priests and Jesus will change bread and wine into his own body and blood through their hands—and the hands of all the priests who will follow them.
Are We Properly Preparing for Holy Communion?
The Holy Eucharist a mystery of God’s love for us. At the Eucharist which we celebrate Sundays and at every Eucharist celebrated every day, everywhere in the world, Jesus Christ makes his Passion, Death and Resurrection present to us. When we come to worship our Triune God, we transcend time as we join the angels and saints offering praise and glory to Almighty God. We also have the opportunity to receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ if we are properly prepared and disposed. This is not an empty ritual, as some may think. Jesus loves us so much that he gives us himself under the appearance of bread and wine!
But not all who receive Holy Communion receive the same benefit; it depends on how we have prepared. Have we fasted for one hour from everything except water and medicine? (The purpose of this small fast is to remind us that we are about to enter into a supernatural experience.) How long has it been since we have gone to confession? (We cannot receive the Lord in Communion if we have serious sin on our soul. Sin is an obstacle to the grace that Jesus wants us to receive.) Are we dressed as if we were going to have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ?
Sunday Mass should be the high point of our week because we come together as a faith community to bear witness to our love for God and one another—and His love for us. Jesus wants us to receive a super-abundance of his grace, but he also wants us to be prepared to enter into intimacy with him so that we can be transformed by his love.
This blog was originally preached by Deacon Tom Fox as his homily for 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B) at St. Matthew Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas.