Altar Egeaux

Monday, July 27, 2009


I’ve noticed that often, when attending a class or training session of some kind, the professor or instructor will begin the class by asking the students what they expect to get out of the class or training session. What is it, going in, that we expect to take with us?

Perhaps some of us here today might be season ticket holders for the Saints, or the Hornets, or the Zephyrs. As we are purchasing our tickets, what are our expectations? We might expect to see our teams win most of their games.

Did you ever go to see a movie, and when asked about it afterward reply, “Well, it wasn’t what I expected.”


Our Gospel reading today tells us that a crowd of more than 5000 followed Jesus. As he crossed the lake in a boat, they hurried around on foot to be there when he arrived on the other shore. Can you imagine if someone left Metairie in a small sailboat heading to Mandeville and a crowd of 5000 people hurried, on foot, around Lake Pontchartrain to be there when it arrived?

Why were these people following Jesus? What were their expectations? Some, as we are told in the Gospel, have heard that Jesus is a miracle worker, and expect to see a miracle for themselves. Others, perhaps, have heard that he is a powerful preacher, and expect to hear words of wisdom when he speaks. Still others might follow just to see what the “hubbub” is about, with no particular expectations other than to have their curiosity satisfied.

As it turns out, those whose expectation included seeing a miracle were not disappointed. We read about how Jesus fed the 5000 with only five barley loaves and 2 fish, and afterward twelve wicker baskets of leftover “fragments” were collected. I can’t help but wonder, though, if I had been there, even expecting some sort of miracle, had I not been paying attention would I have missed it? Would I have realized that a mere five loaves of bread and 2 fish had fed such a vast multitude?


What are our expectations when we come to Mass each week? Do we expect to encounter a miracle? Do we expect to hear words of wisdom? Or do we just come along, like always, because “it’s what we’re supposed to do”?

Standing in the back of church before Mass, I couldn’t help but look at the beautiful stained glass windows over the altar, and at the high, arched ceiling overhead. Many churches are built in this fashion. But do we ever stop and wonder why?

The beautiful windows and high ceilings are intended to draw us out of ourselves, to draw our attention “upward” to God, the almighty, the awesome creator of everything that is. It is our feeble human attempt to move us, focus us, and propel us up, away from and above ourselves as we worship the Lord.

Yes, we are gathered, not only as a community, but as a community united in WORSHIP of this awesome, almighty God. We worship Him with songs, and prayers, and attitude, and action! We worship Him, who came down to us, who humbled Himself to be born a man, who we then tortured and killed on a cross. We worship Him, who rose from the dead, and now present on the altar, provides us with spiritual nourishment, and seeks to guide us ever upward to our Father in heaven!

As Catholics we “know” that a miracle does, indeed, take place. We know that Jesus Christ becomes truly present on the altar. But are we paying attention? Are we aware of the miracle that has taken place? Do we receive Him with the respect and attention that He deserves?

And when we receive Him, we truly become one Body in Christ. And as Catholics, as Christians, we are obligated to share that body, to BE Christ to those around us.

As Jesus said in the Gospel today, “gather all the fragments together so that nothing is wasted.” I submit to you that the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the helpless in our city, in our society, these are the “fragments” that WE must gather to ensure that they are not wasted! It is our duty to care for them, to be Christ for them, in whatever manner we are able, be it through prayer, or with charitable donations of money, or food, or clothing.

We will return to Mass next week, and the week after, and the week after that. What will be our expectations? Will we expect to see a miracle? Will we pay attention to that miracle? Will we share that miracle with others?