Today we honour the memory of Saint Alphonsus Liguori: bishop, Doctor of the Church and founder of the Redemptorists. His writings on moral, theological, and ascetic matters had a great impact upon the Church and have survived through the years. His works on moral theology are still studied in seminaries and Catholic universities today. Saint Alphonsus died on 1st August 1787 and he was canonised in 1839. Today his spiritual sons and daughters carry on his work of preaching the Word of God. Here in England the Redemptorists are known for their publishing enterprise and for preaching missions.
The story of Christianity is the story of turning to God for help. It is God who creates us and sustains us every moment of our lives, even when we are not paying attention. Perhaps when all seems lost, or challenges seem impossible, God is able to work through our lives most powerfully. That’s what happens in today’s Gospel.
John the Baptist has just been executed. Our Lord heads for seclusion to no doubt grieve for his cousin. But the people seek him out: for they are lost like sheep without a shepherd. Facing the emptiness created by his loss after John’s death, and now facing the empty stomachs of the crowd, Our Lord turns to his Father. Miraculously the five loaves and two fish become food enough to feed the huge crowd with some left over. In the breaking of the bread we see the powerful action of God at work.
The feeding of the 5,000 is filled with Eucharistic imagery. So are the meals we eat with those who are closest to us. When we gather at table together we have a chance to acknowledge just how much we depend upon God and how much we are to depend on one another. Prayer should always mark such an occasion. When we eat together with awareness we tie the Mass more closely in our lives and we prepare ourselves for the heavenly banquet.