Translation of the Holy Gospel According to Mark
At that time, when there was a great multitude with Jesus, and they had nothing to eat, calling His disciples together, He saith to them: I have compassion on the multitude, for behold they have now been with Me three days, and have nothing to eat and if I shall send them away fasting to their home, they will faint in the way: for some of them came from afar off. And His disciples answered Him: From whence can any one fill them here with bread in the wilderness? And he asked them: How many loaves have ye? Who said: Seven. And He commanded the people to sit down on the ground. And taking the seven loaves, giving thanks, He broke and gave to His disciples to set before the people. And they had a few little fishes, and He blessed them, and commanded them to be set before them. And they did eat, and were filled: and they took up that which was left of the fragments, seven baskets: and they that had eaten, were about four thousand: and He sent them away.
Transcription of Sermon
The saving words of the Gospel.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, the Holy Spirit. Amen.
On this Feast of St. Veronica Giuliani, we have these very fitting readings for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost. You’ll notice that after Pentecost in the Extraordinary Form, the Epistle works its way through Paul, Paul’s Letters. And now we are at this kind of a culmination, in which we see this very clear teaching on baptism. And then, we see this miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, which also has many Eucharistic elements in it, in the verbs used. And fitting that, you know, and it’s such a great saint, Saint Veronica Giuliani, whose life was transformed on the day of her baptism. And she was set on a course of extreme holiness and that started with her baptism. And then, as you heard in her life when it was read to you, how she longed for the Eucharist, this longing to be reunited with her Bridegroom in the Eucharist; and there’s no greater communion than that, then to receive our Beloved, to receive Him into ourselves. to not merely adore Him, which in itself is an unmerited grace, not only to contemplate His mysteries, and not only, as if it were little, to have the life of sanctifying grace in our souls, but to be able to receive Him in a communion that is a foretaste of Heaven. And all of this is rooted in baptism.
When Paul is giving us this baptismal teaching in Romans 6, I won’t repeat it all – it’s worthwhile repeating it all though, but it would be good to reread it and see what he says – there’s this definitive break with sin in baptism. A definitive break because we die to sin. And that’s why, you know, in the old Church, there was some of the immersion baptisms, that was one of the practices for baptism, and that was, you know, the image was of drowning; drowning. The Old Man is dying, and what rises from the baptismal waters, then, is this creature made anew in Christ; and baptized, as Paul says, into Christ. So, not baptized by Christ, baptized into Christ; we are joined to the Head of the Mystical Body, and, therefore, we become extensions of Christ. And therefore, we ought not be surprised that we participate in His, some aspects of, His earthly life: The joys, the sorrows, the sweat and the tears, the passion, the grieving, and all of this is part of following Christ crucified and risen.
To be baptized is to be… ἐβαπτίσθημεν, (ebaptisthemen) – right? – means to be plunged, to be dunked, dipped into something. And so, we’re plunged into Christ. And then, there’s an interesting word that Paul uses, Since He died to sin once for all… This once is really an interesting word, because it’s a combination of ἐπί and ἅπαξ. So ἐφάπαξ, (epaphax), is a one-time thing. And you’ve heard the term hapax legomenon – right? – that is a term that appears once in Scripture never to appear again. And so, this once is definitive.
And this is also why, you know, in the Early Church, the practice was once you’re baptized you got one opportunity to go to Confession. And the idea was that I’ve made my choice for Christ; sin is no longer part of the program. I don’t get to play with temptation or consider doing something that would rupture my relationship with Him because I’ve already died to sin. I’ve been plunged into these deathly waters of baptism, I arose again anew, and that’s that. And so, yes, we’re saved, we’re also being saved, and we’re not saved yet.
So, it’s all three of those things. We are saved by baptism. We’re working out our salvation with fear and trembling. And we will be saved, once our soul, in a state of grace, departs from this body of ours, and then is presented to a particular judgment, if we’re in a state of grace. And so, this Are you saved? Yes and no. Will you be saved? Yes and no. Hope so, working on it. Is Christ working out my salvation? Not without my cooperation, Paul tells us with fear and trembling. What does that mean? If I have been saved once by making some formulaic, extra-biblical statement that I recognize Jesus as my Lord and Savior, that’s not in Scripture. That’s extra-biblical, that’s a manistradition of man.
Okay, well, we are rooted in Scripture, but remember Scripture – how did the Church Fathers finally determine what was scripture; what was canonical? And one of the elements that helped them to determine what was part of the Canon of Scripture – canon means a list, ok, [was] what was divinely inspired was what has the Church, since the Apostles, been using for Mass. What are the books of the Bible that the Church has been using for Mass because the Word of God is the menu? That’s the menu. Okay, that’s what’s being served up. The meal is the Sacrifice. And so, if you just study Scripture, well, you’re studying the menu. Okay? We were made for more than that.
We were made for more than the word of God. We’re made for the Logos, which comes into us. And then, in this Gospel, Our Lord – it’s kind of a fulfillment of Psalm 22. He’s the Good Shepherd who leads His flock to green pastures and by running waters, and He feeds them. He lays out a banquet for them and He is the banquet. It is His sacrifice, His Body, His Blood, His Definity, His humanity; that’s the meal. And so, this is not any meal. This is not something earthly. This is not something merely symbolic. This is a union of Heaven and Earth.
And notice too, that [in] the context of this Gospel, Christ has escaped from the city and going out to the desert regions around the Decapolis because John the Baptist has just been arrested, and they’re going to be coming for Jesus next. And so, He escapes because it’s not the time; He still has work to do. He still has to form His Apostles. And so, He escapes and, as He goes out to the desert places, people follow Him. And as they follow Him, He’s teaching them. And then we have this beautiful scene where we see this dynamic of, we saw it a couple of weeks ago, He saw them and had compassion.
So, this seeing eye of God is all-absorbing. He takes in our sorrows, nothing escapes Him. Nothing escapes His eye. And, you know, just as surgeons will be OCD about hygiene, and because they’re gonna have a big gaping wound, and they don’t want anything, any bacteria, anything, getting into this open wound. Well, Our Lord is a willful open wound through His eye, and, through that eye, He takes upon Himself all of our pain, our sorrow, our grief, our suffering, and He makes it His own. When it says that He had compassion, this word is very powerful. It’s a visceral, physical reaction in the guts that is violent. He has a violent reaction when He contemplates human suffering in His Sacred Humanity. And so, He’s not a mere observer. He’s not a puppet master.
Whatever human suffering He sees, He takes upon Himself, and He suffers it perfectly. We can disassociate, we can forget, we can go to the fridge, we can get the remote, we can take a nap, we can read a book, we can do all sorts of things to kind of forget about it for a little while; He does not. When He makes it His own, it’s His own in every aspect. Nothing escapes His eye, and it’s through His eye, that His guts are wrenched. That’s what this compassion is. Compassion means to suffer with. So, He suffers with every victim of trafficking, every person who has been betrayed, every person who’s ever suffered anything physical, moral, spiritual. He sees that and He makes it His own. And in making it on His own, He’s not a masochist, rather, He’s a savior because He redeems suffering. And without baptism, without Eucharist, these sufferings mean nothing. They go nowhere. They have the last word. It’s baptism and Eucharist. It’s the gates of Heaven. It’s this adoption, this filiation, being divinely adopted and made children of God, and then, it is receiving Him that, all of a sudden, makes these sufferings, these sorrows, the life of St. Veronica Giuliani, which was filled with suffering and sorrow, makes that sanctifying.
People don’t understand mortification, people don’t understand fasting. I was talking to a dietitian once, so you can tell that wasn’t a conversation that lasted long if you look at me, but I was talking with this dietician once, who was telling me how strict, you know, we had to be. So you get this one little Dachau-sized meal of gruel, and then you get a couple of snacks throughout the day, and you have to be very, very precise in the time, so you got to keep track, and then you got to text me once, you know, every week; tell me what you ate, tell me how often, how things are going, texting your weight, all of this. The moment I mentioned fasting for spiritual reasons, she had like a spittle-flecked nutty. She just kind of like lost it. She goes, Oh, God doesn’t want that!! I go, Well…, yeah, He does. Yeah… Yeah, ya, He does want fasting. You know, because if He, as I said to her, if He’s written into our nature, how the body responds to this program, that is just a human program, how much more has He written into our nature the fruitfulness of acts modification, of acts of love, of prayer, of reparation?” And this just didn’t make sense [to her].
It doesn’t make sense if we have a god that we’ve made according to our own size. If he’s kind of a garden Smurf, is all merciful, as a Cardinal Meissner, said to me one time. He says, The problem is we’ve we have reduced God some all-powerful… what do you call Him… an all-merciful garden Smurf? Nobody feels threatened by that. So we lost this sense of reparation. Well, if we don’t understand baptism, if we don’t understand the Eucharist, well, of course, we’re not going to understand reparation, we’re not gonna understand mortification. And non-the-less when those are the program, those are the two poles, so say, I’m rooted in my baptism and, as a result of it, I reached the culmine of communion in the Eucharist, all of a sudden, those things, and the darkness that life serves me, all of a sudden that becomes very sanctifying, and it’s not something I rebel against; it’s something I embrace.
And each one of us is going to have it tailor-made for us; tailor-made according to what we can bear. A Lord never gives us a cross without giving us the grace to bear it. He never calls us to a spirituality in order to set us up to frustration. And so, all of this is tailor-made. And that’s why the saints aren’t saints because they are imitating saints. They were edified by other saints, but they don’t imitate saints. What they have in common is an imitation of Christ in their place in life according to what Our Lord was asking of them. What He asks one, He is not going to ask of another.
And so, we don’t look at our companions and feel spiritual envy. We feel edified when we look at our companions and see how spiritually progressed they are. We don’t look at them and say, What schleps! You know, if they only were as holy as I am. Right? We don’t look at others, we look at Our Lord. And we look at the great disproportion between our Lord and ourselves, and we let that be a motivation that Christ is allowing me to see my own littleness. It’s not to humiliate, it’s to show me, to reveal to me, once again, this utter truth of my dependence on a radical dependence on Him for those baptismal waters to well up to life eternal and enjoy the communion that we have in this life forever in Heaven.
In the Name of the Father, of the Son, the Holy Ghost. Amen.
— Fr. Ermatinger