“Bread from Heaven” – a food for the journey
When I was working in The Pas, Manitoba there was an elderly lady who used to come to church for daily mass. She was pious, regular, and never missed a day even during the coldest day of the winter. Out of curiosity one day, I asked her, “Mary why do you come to mass every day?” She answered, “Father, it gives me strength and nourishes my soul and body to continue my life.” she is true. Eucharist nourishes our souls and body in our spiritual and life journey. In the first reading, it is evident how God nourishes and strengthens prophet Elijah in his journey to Mount Horeb (also known as Sinai) where he will encounter God and be renewed in his resolve to serve God (1 Kings 19.12). In today’s gospel, Jesus repeats twice: “I am the bread of life and “I am the living bread come down from heaven.” This is the bread we receive at the Eucharist table that nourishes us spiritually and sustains us as we journey through life.
In the Eucharist Christ is both sacramentally and physically present. Our encounter with Christ in the eucharist is a physical one, not just a spiritual one. Therefore, receiving Christ in the Eucharist offers us the largest “conduit of grace.” Eucharist not only unites us ever more intimately to Christ, but it also preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace” which we received at Baptism (CCC 1392).
Another dimension of the eucharist is communion – ‘agape’. The Eucharist creates communion and fosters communion. (Ecclesia De Eucharistia 40). The Eucharist makes the Church (CCC 1396). When we are united to Christ in the Eucharist we are also united more closely to all other members of his mystical body, the Church. This sacrament is the “sign of unity” and “bond of love” (St. Augustine). “Strengthened through the Body of Christ in the holy celebration of the Eucharist, they then manifest the unity of the People of God, which through this sublime sacrament is powerfully represented and wonderfully realized in a visible way” (LG, 11). St. Paul in his letter teaching the Ephesians about how to manifest this “visible way” in their community. He is exhorting all of them to practice kindness, love, sympathy, compassion, unity – etc. St. Paul invites them to be ‘imitators of God’ and live in love. As Christians today, we do have the responsibility of creating and fostering Eucharistic communities. All Christians then, are tasked to take the living and acting presence of the crucified and risen Lord in their hearts, as they go forth from the Eucharistic table, to carry him in love and service in the totality of their daily lives, so that the ecclesial-sacramental body which is the Church may fulfill its destiny to make of all humanity into the living Body of Christ in the world.
Let us pray during this week that we may become imitators of God and learn to live in love. May this ‘bread from heaven’ bring healing, strength, reconciliation and also remind us of our task to go out and bring Jesus to others.
By Vijay Deivanayagam, OMI
Vocation Contact Central