Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT, 1937.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Fourth Sunday in Lent is called Midlent Sunday or Refreshment Sunday. The Gospel records the miraculous feeding of the five thousand. St. John relates the miracle as an introduction to Our Lord's sermon on the Bread of Life. "I am that bread of life. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I. will give for the life of the world."
In the Collect we pray for the comfort of His grace, that we may be strengthened and by this gift of strength may be relieved, not from our sharing of the Passion of Our Lord, but from the weakness which causes us to shrink from it. The word in the Latin Collect means recover breath. So the purpose of the day is to give us opportunity to recover our breath before we begin the procession to the Cross. We do not pray that we may escape from the Cross, but that we may have strength to bear it.
So we turn to the miracle of the feeding of the multitude. They were in need of bodily refreshment. They had no supply of their own. There was no natural base of supply. If there had been there was no money to buy food. The disciples had nothing to give. Two hundred pennyworth of bread would not be sufficient for them, that every one of them might take a little. Mark the words every one. No one must be neglected. The only person who had anything at all was a little boy, and he had only enough for himself, five barley loaves and two small fishes. A little luncheon for a little boy.
What was that among so many? St. Andrew only mentioned the fact to emphasize the impossibility of the situation. The rest and what happened we know. The men who benefited by the miracle said, "this is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world." If only they had known they might have said, "this is the Saviour that has come into the world." But they did not know.
How many today know about the miracle that is to be witnessed every time Holy Communion is given? This same Jesus has compassion upon the multitude today, and speaks the comfortable words, "Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you."
Make a meditation on this subject. Picture the scene at an Altar at the time of Communion. Picture the people kneeling at the rail. Who are they? All that you may know about them is that they have truly and earnestly repented them of their sins, and that they have drawn near with faith to take the holy Sacrament to their comfort. This is all that you know. But God knows more. He knows the life history of each one.
We only know our own. We know that if we had not been strengthened and refreshed by the Body and Blood of Christ we should have fainted from sheer exhaustion under the pressure of temptations, anxieties, sorrows and nameless, helpless troubles for which the world could offer neither remedy nor relief.
Picture the scene at the Altar rail, and you have the modern miracle, the miraculous feeding which occurs daily in your own Church.
Affectionately in Our Lord,