In her reflection for the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, Sr Veronica Lawson refers to a particular incident in Australian history about which many New Zealanders may not know, the 1854 Eureka Street rebellion, in which gold miners at Ballarat lost their lives in a bloody battle for equal rights. ANew Zealand comparison might be the Treaty of Waitangi, the originals of which are housed in a special display cabinet in the National Archives building, and in Te Papa Tongarewa. Just as Eureka Street and its symbols now have much greater significance in Australian history, the materials on which the treaty was written are today symbolic of much more than the fabric.
The gospel for today is full of Eucharistic symbolism. The setting is a ‘desert’ place, recalling the wanderings of the Israelites in the desert of Sinai. The hunger of the people recalls God’s care of Israel in the wilderness. God feeds God’s people in the deserts of life, but only if those called to be disciples recognise their responsibility to be the hands of God. ‘Send them away’ is one solution, clearly not the one preferred by Jesus. Rather, he says, ‘You give them something to eat’. When the people sit down in circles and share their food, they find there is more than enough for everyone.
Jesus’ actions and words over the bread [and the fish] are echoed in the account of his final meal with the disciples: the bread broken and shared becomes his body broken and ‘given’ for them. Bread in this context has changed its meaning. While all analogies fall short, we might begin to understand this mystery by thinking of the Eureka flag. The flag is constructed of fabric and thread, but it is no longer simply the sum of its material parts. It is housed in a special place in the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery and protected with the utmost care. Because of its associations with the Eureka rebellion and what that stands for in Australian history, it has taken on a meaning far greater than fabric and thread. The bread and wine of the Eucharist are likewise infinitely greater than their material parts. They are Life for us, the shared life of the Risen Christ. Eucharistic life is covenanted life. It means giving life for the sake of the many, sometimes to the point of heroism, sometimes simply by sharing our resources or our time with others in need.