First Reading Commentary
King David, speaking under divine inspiration, proclaims Melchizedek’s priesthood as a type of that of the Messiah when he says: “You art a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 109 :4). Saint Matthew’s Gospel assures us of David’s divine inspiration (cf. Matthew 22:43). When taking into consideration the nationalistic exclusiveness of the ancient Hebrews, David’s statement is astounding and perhaps even scandalous because Melchizedek was not Hebrew.
The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews considers Melchizedek’s priesthood greater than that of Aaron (cf. Hebrews 7:1-11). His sacrifice of bread and wine is a prefigurement of Christ’s Sacrifice. At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the gifts of bread and wine. The signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ. Thus in the offertory thanks is given to the Creator for bread and wine. The Church sees in the gesture of the king-priest Melchizedek, a prefiguring of her own offering (cf.
Saint Paul says: “I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you.” This may have been a revelation from Christ but for certain what he received was indirectly through the other apostles.
“This is My Body that is for you.” The best literal translation of this is: “This is My Body which is on your behalf.” And then what follows is: “This is the new covenant in My Blood.” The word “covenant” is from ancient Greek and literally means “contract” or “agreement”.
Saint John Chrysostom points out that when Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist, if He meant it only to be a symbol, it would be a waste of time for Saint Paul to even mention it, since a symbol would not be critical for our salvation. And since Saint Paul never seems to be one who wastes time, feels the need to write about this subject, as he obviously understood it as the Real Presence.
“For as often as you eat this Bread and drink the Cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.” Saint Paul, by making this statement, delineates that the Mass and the Sacrifice on Calvary are connected. The Council of Trent teaches us: “Christ, our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer Himself to God the Father by His death on the altar of the Cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because His Priesthood was not to end with His death, at the Last Supper He wanted to leave His beloved Spouse the Church a visible Sacrifice by which the bloody Sacrifice which He was to accomplish once for all on the Cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit.” To say that Our Lord’s Sacrifice is re-presented at each and every valid Mass, means that the Sacrifice is eternal, that is, ever-present.
The feeding of five thousand men is the only miracle that is recorded in all four Gospels. The Gospel writers obviously saw the symbolism intimated by Jesus which He would later make a reality when He instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
Before multiplying the loaves and fishes Jesus healed those who needed to be cured. This may be foreshadowing the mandate to be cleansed and absolved of mortal sin before approaching the Blessed Sacrament.
Jesus instructed His disciples to have the crowd sit in groups of fifty. Since this seems like a formality, Our Lord was obviously teaching us something beyond the miracle itself. Otherwise, why would the seating arrangements be all that important? Most of the early Fathers agree that Christ is offering a meal to these five thousand men but He is also showing us that soon there would come the offering of not only a meal but THE
Christ’s most precious Body and Blood.
Saint Thomas Aquinas writes: “Since it was the will of God’s only-begotten Son that men should share in His Divinity, He assumed our nature in order that by becoming Man He might make men gods. Moreover, when He took our flesh He dedicated the whole of its substance to our salvation. He offered His Body to God the Father on the altar of the Cross as a Sacrifice for our reconciliation. He shed His Blood for our ransom and purification, so that we might be redeemed from our wretched state of bondage and cleansed from all sin. But to ensure that the memory of so great a gift would abide with us forever, He left His Body as Food and His Blood as drink for the faithful to consume in the form of Bread and Wine.”