Series on the Eucharist #3 – Feeding the five thousand

By Father Ryan Stenger.

The only one of the miracles of Jesus that is included in all four of the Gospel accounts is his feeding of the crowd of 5,000 with miraculously multiplied bread and fish. Obviously this event greatly affected the first Christians and was influential in forming their understanding of the Lord’s identity and mission.

In the Gospel according to John, the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 is reported at the beginning of the sixth chapter and is followed by the Lord’s famous Bread of Life discourse, in which Christ explains to the crowd his teaching on the Eucharist, thus drawing a strong connection between the miraculous feeding of the crowd and the sacrament of his Body and Blood that he would institute at the Last Supper. The evangelist also emphasizes this connection in his description of the time and place of the miracle. St. John writes, “Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples” (John 6:3). So often throughout the Bible the mountaintop is where God and man come together most profoundly. Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, the prophet Elijah spoke to God in the silent whisper on Mt. Horeb, Christ himself was transfigured in glory on Mt. Tabor, and crucified on Calvary. According to the ancient imagination, the mountain was the place where heaven and earth meet, the symbol of God reaching down to us as we reach up to him.

And St. John also writes, “The Jewish feast of Passover was near” (John 6:4). It was on Passover that the sacrificial lambs were put to death in remembrance of God’s liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. Of course, Christ would die on the Cross at Passover time, as the true Lamb of God whose sacrifice saves us from death and liberates us from slavery to sin. And so, with these details, St. John is showing that the miracle that Christ performed in feeding this massive crowd was not simply a matter of providing ordinary food, but that it was symbolic of something much more, that the bread he gave them prefigured the Bread of Life about which he would go on to teach them, the Eucharist — the place where heaven and earth meet, the unbloody re-presentation of the sacrifice of the Cross, the Lord’s sacred Body offered up and his precious Blood poured out.

It’s easy to imagine that enormous crowd of five thousand following the Lord across the Sea of Galilee and up the mountain. They surely must have been hungry and weary and maybe even lost and confused. How many times throughout their lives had they sought for a way to satisfy their hunger, for a place to find rest, for a source of guidance and direction, but been left unfulfilled in the end? But now they have come to Christ. And after they have been fed by him, St. John tells us that they “had their fill” and still there were twelve baskets of bread left over (John 6:12). That crowd stands for all of mankind, because we all have a profound spiritual hunger, a longing for more than what the world can give. Our hearts reach out towards the infinite, the transcendent, the divine, because God has made us for himself. Only in him are we able to have our fill, so to speak.

And it is in the Eucharist that he gives himself to us as food to sustain us on our journey towards him, as the only food that is able to satisfy that most fundamental longing of our hearts. If it were merely a symbol, it would not be enough, but the Lord gives himself to us truly in the Eucharist — his Body and Blood, his soul and divinity. And he gives himself to us not simply in a momentary way during the liturgy, but he remains with us always in the Tabernacle. His presence abides in our midst; he lives within his Church, so that we always have access to him, so that we’re always able to find our sustenance in communion with him.

The Second Vatican Council taught that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the whole Christian life (“Lumen Gentium,” n. 11). It is in the Eucharist that God lives among us — from him do our lives come and to him are our lives directed. He must indeed be the source and summit of our lives, as a Church, as a diocese, as parishes, as families, as individuals. But sometimes we lose sight of that. It seems so common to hear the Church spoken of as a sort of social service agency, which exists to run hospitals, and schools, and soup kitchens, but then for it to be forgotten that her primary purpose, the reason for all of her activity, is the worship of God. A parish, for example, can do all sorts of great things, but if it doesn’t draw its people closer to Christ in the Eucharist, then it has completely failed in its mission. And it is the same way in our individual lives. We can become so consumed with activity and busy-ness, even good and important and necessary things, that we lose sight of God living in our midst, that we sometimes even tell ourselves that we don’t have time to spend with him and worship him. Sometimes we look for our sustenance and satisfaction in other places; sometimes we direct our lives to other ends.

But the Lord’s miraculous feeding of the five thousand reminds us that only he can truly feed us, only he can satisfy the restlessness of our hearts. May we never look for our happiness apart from him who lives with us always in the Eucharist, so that we might live at all times with him as the source and summit of all that we do.

Father Ryan Stenger, J.C.L., is pastor, St. Joseph Parish, Camp Springs; judge, Diocesan Tribunal Office; and chaplain, Covington Latin School.

Pope: Abuse victims’ outcry more powerful than efforts to silence them

By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service.

VATICAN CITY — “No effort must be spared” to prevent future cases of clerical sexual abuse and “to prevent the possibility of their being covered up,” Pope Francis said in a letter addressed “to the people of God.”

“I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons,” the pope wrote in the letter dated and released Aug. 20.

The letter was published less than a week after the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on decades of clerical sexual abuse and cover-ups in six dioceses. The report spoke of credible allegations against 301 priests in cases involving more than 1,000 children.

“The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced,” Pope Francis said. “But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence them.”

“The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain,” he said, “and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.”

In his letter, Pope Francis insisted all Catholics must be involved in the effort to accompany victims, to strengthen safeguarding measures and to end a culture where abuse is covered up.

While the letter called all Catholics to prayer and fasting, it does not change any current policies or offer specific new norms.

It did, however, insist that “clericalism” has been a key part of the problem and said the involvement of the laity will be crucial to addressing the crime and scandal.

Change, he said, will require “the active participation of all the members of God’s people.”

“Many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred,” he said, are groups where there has been an effort to “reduce the people of God to small elites.”

“Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to a split in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today,” Pope Francis said. “To say ‘no’ to abuse is to say an emphatic ‘no’ to all forms of clericalism.”

In his letter, Pope Francis acknowledged the church’s failure.

“With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives,” he wrote.

“We showed no care for the little ones,” Pope Francis said. “We abandoned them.”

“Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient,” he said. “Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.”

Recognizing the safeguarding policies that have been adopted in various parts of the world as well as pledges of “zero tolerance” for abusive clerics, Pope Francis also acknowledged that “we have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.”

As members of the church, he said, all Catholics should “beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others.”

Pope Francis also asked Catholics to pray and to fast so that they would be able to hear “the hushed pain” of abuse survivors.

He called for “a fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combating all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.”

You can read Pope Francis’ letter in its entirety here: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/events/event.dir.html/content/vaticanevents/en/2018/8/20/lettera-popolodidio.html

Substitute Teachers – Holy Trinity

Holy Trinity School is seeking substitute teachers for the 2018-19 school year.  Interested candidates should contact Principal Katie Jacobs for more information or email a resume to principal@holytrinity-school.org.

Messenger series on the Eucharist #2 (part 2) – From Exodus to the second Exodus

By Alma Burnette.

This week Dr. Alma Burnette continues her exploration of some of the ways the Eucharist is prefigured in the Old Testament.

Moses is a type of Christ. Both were born at a time when oppressors were killing Hebrew babies. Both had unusual first cribs. Both of them were raised by a man who was not their natural father. Both were God’s appointed delivers. Both were intercessors. Both offered their own lives to save the people. Both fasted 40 days and nights. Both gave up great riches to serve. Both, at their first appearance, were rejected by their own people. Both proclaimed commandments. Both provided food and drink. The list could go on and on.

Now for the Eucharist connections:

Moses’ first public miracle was changing water to blood. Jesus’ first public miracle was changing water to wine, a forerunner of the greater miracle of changing wine to his own blood. Moses was the first priest to represent all the people. In this new position, he proclaims the Torah to the people. Jesus, the High Priest, proclaims and also fulfilled the Torah during his three-year ministry — the same number of years it takes to read through the Torah reading cycle in synagogues. After proclaiming the Torah, Moses threw the blood of the sacrifice on the people saying, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made for you.” The priest during the Mass lifts the consecrated host and wine and says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world … ”

Moses publicly consecrates Aaron, which began the priesthood (Kohanim succession) that continues to this day. All Kohens must trace their authority back to Aaron’s consecration. Only these men and the other Levites were permitted to offer sacrifices and other priestly duties for the people. This is what Jesus did with the institution of the Twelve for apostolic succession. Only they and those they ordain have the authority to offer the Mass, announce forgiveness, etc.

The Levitical men, while serving as priests, though most were married, had to be celibate for the weeks they served as priests (five non-consecutive weeks per year, see I Samuel 21:1-5; Leviticus 15:18, 22:4). Priests ordained in the New Testament serve year-round. Peter, a married Jew, probably abstained (I Corinthians 7:5-7) before offering the sacrifice of the Mass. The lay priesthood does not have to be celibate because they are the receivers of the sacrifice, not the ones who offer.

The manna in the wilderness is explained in John 6. The manna is related to the unleavened “Bread of the Presence,” also translated the “Bread of the Faces” (plural), which was commanded to be on a table in the Holy Place in the Tabernacle (and the future Temple) perpetually. It foreshadowed Christ’s presence as the bread, the visible yet invisible face of God (Exodus 25:23-30; Leviticus 24:5-7; Numbers 4:7; John 14:9).

The Passover feast is a monumental foreshadowing of the Eucharist. In this article, I will only touch on details normally not covered elsewhere. For instance, the way the blood of the lamb was strategically smeared on the doors: they poured the blood, not in a basin as translated, but in a dugout hole in the threshold of the door. They dipped the hyssop into the blood, applied it to the two side posts and on the lintel (top) of each door. By observation, one could see the result of the smearing as an upright version of the Paleo Hebrew letter TAV. This letter means: the finish, the covenant, the mark, the sign and the signature (Exodus 12:13). The Hebrew letter looks like two crossed sticks — a cross, a cross with blood on it in the same location as the blood on Jesus’ cross.

The Last Supper Jesus had with his disciple was probably not the Passover meal itself. The reason: the Passover lambs had not yet been sacrificed; Jesus had to die with the Passover lambs to fulfill the typology, which began with his birth (all Passover lambs during the second temple period had to be born in Bethlehem). The meal celebrated the evening before the Passover lambs were sacrificed was probably the Todah sacrificial meal (Leviticus 7:12-15, 22). “Todah” in Hebrew means “thanksgiving”; in Greek the word is “Eucharistia.” It could be any time of the year as often as desired and was often eaten on the evenings surrounding the actual Passover night. The Todah meal was to give thanks for individual or family deliverance from peril or death. The Passover meal was a collective Todah meal designated for all Israel to eat together on one specific night, once a year, to celebrate a national deliverance.

The Todah meals had lamb, unleavened bread, cups of wine, prayers and hymns (the Hallel psalms are Todah psalms). The Todah sacrifice is considered the greatest of the animal sacrifices because it added suffering of one’s own life (see Psalm 69:30). The Todah is a subcategory of the peace offerings (Leviticus 7:12-15), the only sacrifice non-priests are permitted to share in its sacrificial meal. The Todah offering was listed in the passage about the seventy-four being called to go up the mountain with Moses (Exodus 24:1-11). While there, they beheld God as they ate and drank. So too, on the night before the official Passover, the Twelve Apostles were called to go up with Jesus to an upper room. There they beheld God (Jesus) as they ate and drank. From that night on his body, blood, soul and divinity sacrifice would be called the Eucharist — Todah in Hebrew.

If the Lord’s Supper was the Todah meal and not the yearly Passover meal, we have an explanation as to why the first Christians, who were Jews, immediately began celebrating this sacrificial meal weekly, and sometimes daily, instead of once a year. The ancient rabbis believed that after the Messiah comes all sacrifices except the Todah would cease. They were correct! Today, at the end of the Mass, the congregation exclaims, “Thanks be to God” — in Hebrew, “Todah laEl.”

Dr. Alma Burnette is a parishioner at St. Paul Parish, Florence. She has a master’s degree in theology and a Ph.D. in Biblical studies. She is a writer, speaker, teacher and graphic designer. She is currently the president of Word Truths Ministries and a media assistant at Holmes High School.

Messenger series on the Eucharist #2 (part 1) – In the Beginning …

By Alma Burnette.

This second article in the Messenger’s series on the Eucharist features Dr. Alma Burnette exploring some of the ways the Eucharist is prefigured in the Old Testament. It will be published in three parts in three consecutive issues.

“In beginning created Elohim (…) the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1”

In the center of this verse, in Hebrew, is an untranslatable word, which is two Hebrew letters — the “aleph” and the “tav” — the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In Greek the letters are the Alpha and the Omega. It serves the grammatical purpose of being the direct object pointer. These two letters form a concept rather than an actual word. They represent all the words of God by which all things were spoken into existence, including Eucharist. These two letters are peppered throughout the Old Testament, seasoning its meaning. The rabbis teach:

When Messiah comes he will explain the meaning of the aleph and the tav … AND HE DID! He said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Rev. 22:12) The same concept is in John 1:1.

When God made man, he made him out of the earth’s pre-created dust and breathed life into the lifeless form, bringing man into being by his previously spoken words, “Let us make man in our image.”

During the Mass the priest says, “Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life. … Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink.”

The priest is exercising his ordained authority to bring life to the lifeless bread and wine, previously made by human hands, fulfilling Christ’s previous words, “This is my body. … This is my blood.”

Just as the lifeless form of the first Adam, became a living soul so the lifeless form of the bread and wine become the body, blood, soul and divinity of the last Adam, Christ.

In Genesis 2 God causes a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and from his side comes forth Eve. Adam exclaims, “This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” God allowed Christ to die, a deep sleep for his body, and his side, too, was opened (pierced) for the Church to come forth. St. Paul writes, “Because we are members of his body we are of his flesh and of his bone.” (Eph 5:30) How so? By the Eucharist being consumed at the Mass, the marriage supper of the Lamb.

In Genesis 2 and 3 the two trees planted in the middle of the garden foreshadow the Eucharist. During a heated debate with an Orthodox Jew, I was asked, “Do you know what the fruit on the two trees in the garden were?” Taken aback, I replied, “No one knows for sure.”

“AHA!!!” He shouts in victory, “It was manna. The tree of life had unleavened manna and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had leavened manna, both heavenly bread.” I was shocked and demanded, “Your words are not sufficient, present your evidence.” And he did. Genesis 3:19: “In the sweat of your face shalt thou eat bread … ”

He continued, the word “fruit” means more than apples, oranges or figs. It means “the product of,” like “fruit of the womb.” Adam and Eve never prepared food before disobeying God. The couple only ate from the trees, not from anything that grew from the ground, such as grain. Now, after the disobedience, Adam would work to obtain bread, and since, it did not require work before, it had to be a product of a tree — the tree of life.

I suddenly recalled, in the Middle Ages, during the feast of Adam and Eve, the churches held Paradise plays and decorated the tree of life with wafers symbolizing the Eucharistic host.

Now John 6:5 became even more real and Romans 5 more clear on how death came into the world by the first Adam eating outside of the will of God, from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (the Law) and how life comes into the world by eating according to the will of God, Christ’s flesh and blood — the Eucharist, the fruit of the tree of life we call the Cross. Both are heavenly bread. The Jews refer to the wooden rollers the scrolls are attached to as “atzei chaim,” trees of life (the scrolls are the Word of God, written on kosher animal skin sewed together by the thread of its veins).

My debater continued, “When Messiah comes he will elevate the meaning of the manna. Now we meditate on it and celebrate it by eating it during the eight days of the Passover season.”

I responded, “The Messiah has come and did elevate it as being his body. We too celebrate by eating at a meal called the Mass. We too meditate; we call it ‘Adoration.’”

He was stunned and said, “You are a teacher.” I responded, “Without you and your people I would have nothing to teach, Jesus, after all, is a Jew.”

Now, the rest of Genesis: the blood of Able “cries out” … fulfilled in Hebrews 12:24 where Jesus’s blood speaks; Noah planting a vineyard and grain after the flood and being permitted to eat clean animals … animals originally only for sacrifice now allowed by eating to become bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh; Abraham receiving from Melchizedek bread and wine; Jacob clothes himself in Esau’s clothes (Incarnation) and receiving the inheritance which included grain for bread and plenty of wine, that Esau, the first son (Adam) sold; Joseph depending on Pharaoh’s bread maker and cupbearer for deliverance. One died, one lived — death and resurrection in the Eucharist. Later Joseph reveals himself to his brothers after placing a cup into the grain. This led to their confession, reconciliation and the salvation of the world through grain for bread distribution.

Next comes Exodus.

Dr. Alma Burnette is a parishioner at St. Paul Parish, Florence. She has a master’s degree in theology and a Ph.D. in Biblical studies. She is a writer, speaker, teacher and graphic designer. She is currently the president of Word Truths Ministries and a media assistant at Holmes High School.

Weekend Manager – Parish Kitchen

The Parish Kitchen ministry of the Diocese of Covington’s Catholic Charities needs two Weekend Managers to help manage and serve as part of a two-person team. Depending on availability, a Manager could be scheduled as little as once a month to as much as four or five times per month on a Saturday and/or Sunday. Hours of work on the weekend are 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Weekend Managers work directly with the local poor providing a hot meal and warm hospitality. Prior experience in food service, pastoral ministry, or social work is a plus. For more information visit www.covingtoncharities.org.  Candidates interested in the position of Weekend Manager should contact Stephen Koplyay, SPHR by email at skoplyay@covdio.org, or by fax at 859/392-1589. EOE

Substitute Teachers – Prince of Peace

Prince of Peace Catholic Montessori School is looking for energetic and motivated substitute teachers for the 2018-2019 school year.  Prince of Peace is an ACUE school in the Diocese of Covington, serving children preschool through 8th grade.  Candidates should have an Associates or Bachelor’s Degree, enjoy working with children and complete Virtus training.  Montessori experience is preferred, but not required.  Please contact Kathy Handorf at khandorf@popcov.com

Social Studies Teacher – St. Patrick

Saint Patrick School is seeking a part-time High School Social Studies Teacher beginning with the 2018-2019 school year. The highly-effective candidate will possess an active Kentucky School Certification or Statement of Eligibility (SOE) issued by the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board. The potential candidate will also have the requisite content knowledge and leadership experience to support the core values, vision, and mission of the Diocese of Covington and Saint Patrick School.  Interested candidates should submit cover letter, resume, copy of transcripts and certifications to jstraub@stpatschool.com.

Spanish Teacher – St. Catherine of Siena

St. Catherine of Siena in Ft. Thomas is seeking a part-time junior high Spanish teacher for the 2018-2019 school year. The successful candidate will plan and teach quality beginning Spanish classes to sixth through eighth grade, one afternoon a week. To apply send cover letter, resume, and references to Principal Julie Scherer at jscherer@stcatherineofsiena.org.

After-Care Teacher – St. Catherine of Siena

St. Catherine of Siena in Ft. Thomas is seeking a part time after school care teacher for the 2018-2019 school year. Responsibilities include, but are not limited to: assistance with homework, implementation of program activities, and interaction and supervision of children ages kindergarten through eighth grade. Hours are from 2:30-5:30pm, 2-3 days a week. Some flexibility with scheduling. To apply send resume and references to Principal Julie Scherer at jscherer@stcatherineofsiena.org.