A few days ago, just after the celebration of Epiphany, the scripture for the daily Mass gave us, as its Gospel, the story of the feeding of the Multitude. It seems somewhat odd that less than two weeks after we had celebrated the birth of our Lord, we are offered, as our Gospel, this story. Within the timeline of Jesus’ life, the feeding of the multitude would have occurred at some time in the last three years of his life, yet in this our Church Christmas Season, which is so close to the celebration of his birth, the Church has chosen to have us contemplate the ‘feeding’ miracle.
However, if we look upon the feeding of the multitude as an act that expresses how Jesus desires to feed us: how Jesus is the source of spiritual nourishment for those who come to him, then we can begin to recognize that this story of the feeding of the multitude is not just a public miracle in the lifetime of Jesus. It is an expression of Jesus as a source of food; as the greatest source of nourishment.
Therefore, with this in mind, there is one particular aspect of the birth of Jesus which also speaks of how, from the very beginning, his life was aimed at nourishing his people. That aspect is the fact that, because there was no room in the Inn, that night in Bethlehem, when Jesus was born he was placed in a manger. A manger is a feeding trough, a place for farm animals to go when they need to eat, and so in the placement of Jesus in a manger, we are being shown that Jesus is our source of spiritual nourishment, and we are being reminded about how important our Eucharistic Meal, at Mass, truly is.
In these times of Covid restrictions, we have seen that we can always find parts of the Mass through technology. Sunday Scriptures and Homilies can be distributed by email, and those who are not coming to the Church are encouraged to watch the liturgy on the Internet or Television. But there is one, very important aspect of the participation in a Mass at Church that you cannot get through technology, and that aspect is the Eucharist. It is the necessary nourishment that we all need to stay close to God. God was born into the world and was placed in the manger as a sign that he is the nourishment that we all need. He desires to fill us with himself, for in the Eucharist we receive the body, soul and divinity of Christ. Like the three Kings, we need to go in search of him, and finding him in the manger, to receive him in his Eucharist.
Fr. Edward Gibney