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  Fourth Sunday in Lent

March 15, 2015

Not By Bread Alone

Today’s Gospel describing the feeding of the five thousand reminded me of something Our Lord said just three weeks ago in the Gospel of the First Sunday in Lent. He was being tempted by the Devil who offered him a loaf of bread. This Our Lord rejected, sternly admonishing Satan that “Man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that cometh from the mouth of God.” And yet now, just a few Sundays later, we see the same divine Savior himself offering bread to the hungry multitude. Why this apparent contradiction? Why didn’t Our Lord simply preach to the people, and remind them that his Word alone sufficeth.

There are several lessons to be learned from this. The first distinction we must make is in the person who is offering the bread. Our Lord refused bread from the hands of Satan, and yet it was perfectly acceptable for the people to accept bread from the hands of the Savior and his Apostles. From this we can clearly see that we may take the things given to us by good and holy people, but we should not take the things that evil men offer us. It’s a distinction which often gets blurred, or which we forget, seeing instead only the thing offered which is in itself good, in this case the bread. But look to the motivation of those who offered the bread. Our Lord multiplied the loaves and fishes because he was concerned for the health and safety of the poor people who had followed him into the wilderness to hear him preach. He was motivated out of divine charity for his children. In the case of Satan, however, the motivation was to corrupt this holy man who had been fasting for forty days in the wilderness. Or at least to see how corruptible he was. It was an evil agenda that Satan had that day, and Our Lord saw through it and rightly rejected the bread. So if someone offers you wonders and delights, or just plain money, try and identify his motive for doing so. Is the offer designed to corrupt you? Or to make you beholden to him so that you feel you can’t refuse him something in the future? Be careful, and know who you are dealing with. And the Devil loves to make deals!

Secondly, let’s take a look at the bread itself. Nothing wrong with bread is there? No, of course not. There’s nothing essentially wrong with bread. But is there something about the bread that would make it wrong for us to take it? Would it for instance, break our Lenten fast? That’s the reason Our Lord refused bread from the Devil? Or would the bread break our Communion fast? Same bread before Mass as after Mass, and yet we mustn’t eat it before Communion, but only after.

And speaking of Holy Communion, what’s the difference between the transubstantiated Bread of our Mass here and the equally valid transubstantiated Bread of the schismatic Greek Orthodox Mass? There’s no difference in the validity—both are the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord. Same bread, same Body of Christ. And yet when we worthily receive Holy Communion here at Infant of Prague Chapel we receive all the graces of the Sacrament. But if we were to go to an Orthodox Liturgy and receive Communion there, we would be committing a mortal sin against the First Commandment, which forbids us to participate at non-Catholic services. So while the Host is essentially the same, there is something about it which makes all the difference in the world as to whether it avails us unto eternal salvation or unto our condemnation.

We’ve established, I think, that there are times when you may take what is offered to you and times when you should not, or even must not. Let’s take a look now at another aspect of this feeding of the five thousand with relation to Our Lord’s rejection of the bread of Satan. Look at the reason the Savior gave for not taking the Devil’s bread—that man doesn’t live by bread alone but by every Word coming from the mouth of God. What does he mean by the Word coming from the mouth of God? What Word is this? And the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us. Christ himself was that Word that had been made Man and now stood before the Devil. So above all let’s remember how we may be fed by this Word in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Again, we are presented with this Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ, feeding, nourishing, protecting us, saving our souls, uniting us with our Creator. What a great opportunity we have here at this church to receive this Body of Christ in Holy Communion, if not every day, then at least on Sundays and Holydays.

I sometimes think of our poor Protestant brethren who have no such recourse to this greatest gift of God, this Bread of the Angels. They limit themselves in their ignorance to a totally different vision of what constitutes the Word of God. For them the Holy Word is nothing more than the Bible. It is the essential difference between Protestants and Catholics, and yet it should be what most closely unites us. Because after all it is this very Bible that contains the truth about all those things that divide us. Christ made sure for example that there was absolutely no confusion regarding the Real Presence of himself in the Eucharist (John 6:55). He founded his holy Catholic Church on St. Peter the rock (Matthew 16:18), he sent his Holy Ghost to make the Church infallible and therefore the only sure interpreter of the Bible (John 14:16). And yet, Protestants reject the words of this Bible they claim to hold in such high regard, coming up with interpretations of their own that are in conflict with those universally held and taught by the Church for over a thousand years before Martin Luther was even born.

Take for example the following quotation from the Gospel of St. John (21:25) “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” Here, in the words of the very Bible they claim is the sole source of revelation, it says specifically that not everything is in the Bible. It contains the foundation of what God has revealed, but as we Catholics know, there is also a second source by which we may God’s eternal and revealed truths. That second source is Tradition.

As Catholics we do not disparage the books of Holy Scripture, we do not treat them with contempt as the Protestants sometimes accuse us of doing. We do not ignore the Bible. On the contrary it contains the essential foundation of everything God has revealed to us. It is truly the inspired Word of God and we revere it as such. Notice, for example, how the priest incenses the sacred texts after he sings the Gospel at High Mass. You won’t catch the Methodists doing that. But we Catholics see the Holy Bible as what it is, the very foundation of our Faith. And on that foundation Christ came as the corner stone of a new building, a new Church which would be built on a rock, the rock of Peter. And these Protestants of the Reformation suddenly decided in their arrogance to try and tear down that building, the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. And they went back to just the foundation. Try it sometime. Go home today, and tear down your house. Level it to the bare foundation, and then try and live there.

No. It doesn’t work. The Bible is the foundation, but the Bible alone is not the whole story. How do we know? Because the Bible tells us so. Go to a protestant theological college and see what they study: the history of the Bible, the exegesis and commentaries on the Bible, the languages of the Bible, the preaching of the Bible. In short, the Bible. All very nice I’m sure. But no matter how well they learn it, they are only learning one thing, one aspect of our Faith. Go to a Catholic seminary, and you’ll find that thanks to the Church’s complete understanding and correct interpretation of the Bible, we have to study other things too than just the Bible: moral theology, canon law, sacramental theology, liturgy, spirituality, the lives of the saints, apologetics, church history, catechetics, and so the list goes on.

And this brings us right back to today’s Gospel. Because there we see Christ taking five barley loaves and two fishes, and out of that tiny amount providing food for five thousand people. Our Protestant friends follow Christ into the wilderness, it’s true. They claim to love Christ and follow him. They call themselves Christians. And yet they reject the baskets full of nourishment that Christ has mystically provided for them and which the apostles handed out that day, and still do today through the Holy Catholic Church. They refuse to partake of the riches of God's Word, clinging instead to the Bible alone. They refuse these riches, and instead attempt to divide out just the original five barley loaves and the two fishes among their followers. And consequently their followers are starving. Starving because man does not live by bread alone, but by EVERY word that cometh from the mouth of God. Be truly joyful then, on this Laetare Sunday, and take from the hands of the Church the barley loaves of the Bible and the fishes of Tradition, all of them, an infinite source of grace. Graces so innumerable that the crumbs thereof are able to fill twelve baskets.

 Sermons from the Chaplain