INTRODUCTION

"FEEDING THE MULTITUDE"

New Evangelization in the Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons


In celebration of the 500th Year of Evangelization onward to the New Evangelization in the Philippines, from the Year of the Parish to the Year of the Clergy and the Consecrated Persons, from the Year of Communion to the Year of Service and Witness, the Year of the Clergy and the Consecrated is the year of the shepherds and the sheep, sharing in the Priesthood of Christ, the Good Shepherd and Servant Leader.


Jesus’ Priesthood in the Feeding the Multitude

In the Synoptics Jesus instituted the Ministerial Priesthood at the last Supper. John‘s version of the Last Supper narrative is Jesus‘ washing of the feet; hence in this humble act of Jesus is seen John‘s version of the institution of the Ministerial Priesthood.


Moreover, PCNE 5 proposes the Gospel story of Jesus‘ feeding the multitude as its source for its reflection on the gift of priesthood—ministerial and baptismal, and the gift consecrated life.

The Sources and their Context

  1. Mark 6:30-44: the compassion of Jesus manifested in his command that the disciples feed the multitude intimates the ministerial priesthood

  2. John 6: 1-14: the generosity of the boy hints to the common priesthood

  3. In both Gospel versions, the crowd stands for the ‗laity‘ gifted with the common priesthood.

  4. Thus, the miracle, the feeding of the multitude, is seen as having taken place through Christ the Good Shepherd with the disciples and the crowd who:

    • experienced God‘s compassion through Jesus, the Face of God‘s mercy
    • were fed with bread blessed and broken and fish that were shared
    • was gifted with satisfaction and abundance as the fruit of sharing no matter how little.

From this overview of the sources, the following themes are drawn.


  1. (Encounter - Spirituality) - Sharing in the One Priesthood of Christ

    The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” (Mk 6:30-31)

    The apostles were with Jesus for a well-deserved rest. Their on the job training just ended; they were sharing their experiences in doing the mission of Jesus to heal and to preach. Jesus Himself knew they needed to be by themselves to relax, so He told them: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

    Apart from Jesus choosing them and sharing His mission with them, the apostles were also given the gift to encounter Jesus and establish an intimate relationship with Him. This encounter paves the way for continuing personal relationship with Jesus and imitation of Jesus‘ openness to God who appointed Him Great High Priest.

    Because Jesus was humble and devoted, God heard him. But even though he was God’s Son, he learned through his suffering to be obedient. When he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him, and God declared him to be high priest, in the priestly order of Melchisedek. (Heb 5:7-10)

    Similarly, the successors of the apostles and those appointed to be presbyters (the clergy) and those women and men called to consecrated life are gifted primarily to an intimate encounter with Him. This loving personal encounter between Jesus and the priests / consecrated is expressed in their union with God, their faithful obedience to the will of the Father and creative participation in the mission of Jesus.

    PCP II 533 states: ―The spiritual life of the priest, like that of all Christians, begins with an encounter with Christ, with faith and conversion. This is the beginning of all spirituality and leads to union with God in grace, a state of being in love with God.‖

    PCP II 534 continues: "The priest’s spirituality is rooted and centered in Christ. He has given up home and family in order to follow Christ. He is ordained to speak and act in the name of Christ. Therefore, he needs to be immersed in Christ‘s life, steeped in his wisdom, and imbued with his values."

  2. Communion with Jesus: Formed after the heart of Christ, the Good Shepherd

    People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already very late. Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” He said to them in reply, “Give them some food yourselves.” (Mk 6:31, 33-36)

    A consequence of their personal encounter with Christ and a sign that they were rooted and centered in Jesus is that were to do what as well as the way Jesus did. When Jesus replied to the disciples after they informed him of the emergency situation (deserted place, very late and no food) that they themselves should give the vast crowd some food, Jesus expected them to act like Him— the Good Shepherd. Jesus first of all was moved with pity for the crowd. Jesus taught them many things. Jesus wanted to feed them through the disciples‘ initiative.

    The ordained ministers and the consecrated persons, because of their encounter Christ, take part in the mission of Christ the Good Shepherd as they strive to have their hearts formed after the heart of Christ the Good Shepherd. As Jesus expected His disciples to act like Him, the ordained ministers and the consecrated persons strive to imitate Jesus and liken their hearts to the Heart of Jesus:

    • a compassionate heart that makes them feel with those they minister;

    • a generous heart that urges them to make the first move and take the first step in leading the sheep;

    • a creative heart filled with initiatives; and

    • a humble heart that is ready to serve and not to be served.

    PCP II 534 states: ―As a priest, he is not only a disciple of the Lord but must teach the Lord‘s ways to others. He can only do this if he is like Christ in his mind and heart.‖

  3. Mission: Ministerial Priesthood at the service of the common priesthood

    But they said to him, “Are we to buy two hundred days’ wages worth of food and give it to them to eat?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out they said, “Five loaves and two fish.” So he gave orders to have them sit down in groups on the green grass. The people took their places in rows by hundreds and by fifties. Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to [his] disciples to set before the people; he also divided the two fish among them all. (Mk 6:34, 38-41)

    "Go and see" is Jesus‘ way to teach his disciples that they were to be in the midst of the crowd, to know them, their gifts and their needs. Then with Jesus the disciples were to bless their gifts (five loaves and two fish) to God. Jesus broke the loaves and divided the fish so that these could be given and shared by many. All these were meant to highlight how the disciples took part in the priesthood of Jesus the Good Shepherd, who fed the multitude. Like Jesus, they were to be good shepherds and servant leaders of the flock.

    Today, the clergy are challenged to be missionary disciples of Christ the Good Shepherd / Servant Leader. They share in the priesthood of Christ given to all the baptized as they immerse themselves in the life of the lay baptized active in the church and those in the peripheries who are away from the Church.

    CCC 1547 states: "While the common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal grace—a life of faith, hope and charity, a life according to the Spirit, the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood. It is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians. The ministerial priesthood is a means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads his Church. For this reason it is transmitted by its own sacrament, the sacrament of Holy Orders."

    Today the consecrated are called to live intensely their baptismal priesthood as they offer their life to God and expressed this consecration as they strive to live fully the evangelical counsels of obedience, chastity and poverty.

    In the spirit of the New Evangelization, the clergy and the consecrated take the initiative of moving from mode of maintenance in the Church to pastoral conversion at the service of the common priesthood.

    The direction from maintenance to pastoral conversion follows the way of Jesus in feeding the multitude. Jesus recognized the Father as the source of everything as He said a blessing on the loaves.

    The first step in moving away from complacency and ―status quo‖ in the ministry is to be aware that the mission is the work of the Father entrusted to the Son in the Holy Spirit. Like Jesus they take time to bless and praise God amidst the challenges posed by various sources. The best moment to bless the Lord is the Eucharistic celebration.

    Jesus broke the loaves of bread and divided the fish. This action anticipates Jesus’ being broken in his passion and death for the salvation of the world.

    The second step toward pastoral conversion is to accept the necessity to be broken like Jesus and with Jesus to help in bringing the gift of salvation to all. In experiencing brokenness in the ministry, the clergy and the consecrated shun all forms of clericalism, superiority complex and entitlement; instead they become authentic witnesses and instruments of communion with Jesus and with one another.

    After breaking the loaves and dividing the fish, Jesus sent his disciples to distribute them to the people.

    The third step for pastoral conversion is to take hold of the ‘givens’ and the opportunities and share them with those who collaborate in the Christian community. The clergy and the consecrated, highlighting collaboration and participation, brings into the ministry all their creativity, imagination and enthusiasm for the Gospel to be shared to as many, to everyone.

  4. Epilogue: From sharing little but everything to satisfaction and abundance

    They all ate and were satisfied. And they picked up twelve wicker baskets full of fragments and what was left of the fish. Those who ate [of the loaves] were five thousand men. (Mk 6:42-44)

    All were satisfied. They picked up the leftover. A very clear reality comes to the fore in the feeding of the multitude—from the sharing of a little or a few, yet it was total sharing, a sharing of everything they had— satisfaction prevailed in everyone and everyone saw abundance of bread and fish. Truly this miracle points to Jesus‘ total giving of Himself as the Good Shepherd, till His last breath. The fruit is eternal salvation for all: satisfaction and abundance.

    The clergy and the consecrated in sharing in the priesthood of Christ the Good Shepherd and the Servant Leader are invited to give themselves totally to the faithful, to be always available even to the point of being broken, to minister the flock with wholeness and holiness. And they will truly be fulfilled and be blessed with abundance.

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