Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

The miracle of the Eucharist

August 5, 2020

To read this column in Spanish, click here.

In these days of the pandemic, I have heard many stories of heroism, of people going out of their way to attend to the needs of others. I am edified in learning about the extraordinary generosity of neighbors who take time to check up on others, to comfort those who have lost loved ones, to contribute to food pantries and to volunteer in parishes and other charitable agencies.

Recently a pastor reported that a woman came to the rectory to make a gift to the parish food pantry. She handed him the $15 she had earned in tips that day as a waitress. And then she asked the pastor to pray for her because at the end of the workday, the owner of the restaurant said they were closing. She now was out of a job.

The pastor insisted that she take her gift back. “No,” she said, “I know there are others who have greater needs, and besides I need to tell myself that even in my need, in my want, I can do something for another.”

That story sums up what we heard about Jesus in the Gospel story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes the weekend of Aug. 2. Upon learning of the death, the murder of John the Baptist, Jesus withdraws, grief stricken, to an out-of-the-way place, much like we all do in moments of tragedy, wanting just to be by ourselves to grieve.

But as soon as he sees the crowd coming to him to be comforted in their pain and sorrow at the death of John the Baptist, he comes away from being withdrawn and extends himself to others. It is here that the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 begins. He allows himself, as he does in the Eucharist, to be bread for others.

That is why it is important to understand the connection between this story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and the Eucharist. It is Jesus’ way of telling us that the real miracle involved in the Eucharist is not just that Jesus makes himself present to us, but that he empowers us to move beyond our tendency to withdraw in moments of suffering and become bread broken and shared to nourish others.

This is what took place in the life of that waitress when she realized that even in her want she had the power to do something for those in need. That is what takes place in the Gospel story, as Jesus offers the bread to God in the blessing, empowering him to break and share it. That is what takes place in the Eucharist, allowing us to leave our state of withdrawal and, even if it costs us something, to be bread for others.

Most in our Catholic community in these days are not able to attend Mass and receive Communion. Yet this Gospel story provides us a rich opportunity to more fully understand what we believe about the Eucharist. At the heart of the Eucharist are the words of Jesus that the priest utters at the end of the consecration: “Do this in memory of me.”

These words are an invitation to accept the miracle of the Eucharist in our lives, the miracle of turning from ourselves to others, to live our lives as bread that God accepts and blesses, empowering us to be broken and shared to nourish others. Even if we cannot all receive the Eucharist, we can be Eucharist for others.

Each day we have many opportunities to be Eucharist for others. It may be in helping a neighbor or family member in need, praying for those who are sacrificing for public safety or comforting those who have lost loved ones.

As an archdiocese, we have organized a special COVID-19 Relief Fund, which has to date distributed $3.5 million to assist in restocking food pantries, with burying the dead, with counseling for domestic violence and other needs overseen in our parishes and by Catholic Charities. Please consider helping to build that fund, if you have the means, by contacting us at: COVID-19 Relief Fund, Archdiocese of Chicago, 835 N. Rush St., Chicago, IL 60611; 312-534-7959; or

Regardless, I invite you to pray about how you can be Eucharist for others and let the miracles begin.


  • eucharist
  • coronavirus
  • covid-19