A woman handed me an envelope after Mass a few weeks ago. It had a note that read something like this: “Father, I am 91 years old now. I thank God for all His blessings in my life especially for my health and the love of my family, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Please pray for my special intention, that God will give me long life.” My initial response was, “What? How long does she want to live?” I realized that was none of my business so I prayed a sincere prayer to God, asking Him to grant her as many more years as she wanted, even if she wanted to live for another half decade!
91 years old and still wanting a long life! It is obvious that she is grateful but not satisfied with 91 years of a blessed and fulfilled life. She wants something more. This shows us something about life here on earth. What is she really searching for? What she intensely desires is much more than a long duration of life, but the fullness of life, the perfect and blessed life, what we call eternal life, that life that is a participation in the very life of the God who created us and keeps us in existence today. As long as we do not possess and are growing in this eternal life within us, nothing in this world will ever satisfy us.
In the First Reading, Moses reminds the Israelites that the manna was given to them to teach them the lesson that ultimately it is not the abundance of bread but the creative word of God that sustains man. “God fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.” This “word from the mouth of the Lord” brings all that is needed for our sustenance, including the manna.
Jesus Christ Himself is the Eternal Word of God, and in His person, both in His humanity and in His divinity, He is the bread that gives life. In His humanity, He is the sacrament that makes present the true God in our midst. He took on our nature and retains this humanity now in glory so that He could give Himself to us in both word and sacrament, and not in word alone. He is the “living bread that came down from heaven” so that “those who eat this bread will live forever.” His flesh is true food and His blood is true drink. Eating this flesh and drinking His blood, that flesh and blood taken from the Blessed Virgin Mary, “we will have live within us,” because we will “remain in Him and He will remain in us.”
St. Paul reminds the Christians in Corinth that the “cup of blessing” and the “bread that is broken” are no mere symbols but a participation in the blood of Christ and in the body of Christ. These sacramental signs can make the community one only because they are realities that connect the Christians to what Christ did on Calvary. It is the Eucharist that links us today to the Incarnate Word, the reconciliation with the Father that Christ won for us and the pledge of eternal life that is found in the Godhead: “For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace through by His blood on the Cross.”(Col 1:20)
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we will always want more in this world because we are made for the fullness of life. It is so easy for our love for God and neighbor to be weakened in our daily life so that we begin to seek earthly realities in a disordered way. The Eucharist becomes the place where we can exchange our own earthly affections for the peaceful certainty that our greatest desire for eternal life is being fulfilled even now. “By giving Himself to us, Christ revives our love and enables us to break our disordered attachments to creatures and root ourselves in Him.”(CCC 1394) Without the eternal life that the Eucharist nurtures in us, it becomes impossible for us to tame the tide of insatiable unrelenting desire for more.
How can we continuously nurture this divine life within us? In the first place, we must embark on a life of constant conversion from sin and from our selfish tendencies. The manna was given to the Israelites only after they left bondage in Egypt. Likewise, we must let the blood of Christ set us free us from our sins and sinful tendencies in regular confession to prepare us for sacramental communion. The amount of freedom from sin and selfishness that we bring to the Eucharist will determine the efficacy of the Eucharist in our life.
Secondly, we should approach the Eucharist with expectant faith, and not out of obligation. Do we approach the Eucharist expecting an outpouring of transforming grace or do we so out of obligation? As a teenager, I used to attend Mass on Sundays because my parents taught me to do so from youth. I experienced the powerful graces of the Eucharist only when, by the grace of God through Mother Mary, I made the conscious decision to attend Mass with expectant faith, believing in Jesus’ real presence and His desire to enlighten my mind, strengthen my will and change my heart. Pure faith alone, faith in Jesus’ words, not obligation, and definitely not emotional state, opens our hearts to the graces of the Eucharist.
Thirdly, we must rediscover the act of offering thanksgiving after the Eucharist. It is so disheartening sometimes to notice how eager we are to get out of Mass after Holy Communion. Many cannot wait to get out of the Church back into the world for business as usual. Sometimes we may need to live early but if we cannot spend some moments in honest communication with Jesus Christ after Holy Communion, thanking Him for coming to us and sharing our lives with Him, how can we ever hope to know the hope and joy that comes from His eternal life? The moments after Communion are the most intimate moments we can have with the Savior on this side of life and if we do not humbly and gratefully acknowledge His presence in us, the Eucharist may remain for us just another ritual.
The Word has been spoken. The Word has taken on flesh born of the Virgin Mary. The Bread of Life comes to us today in the Eucharist because He knows that we are made for more than the things of this world. He comes to offer us that life that we desire above all things – eternal life. The Word has also spoken and said to us about the Eucharist, “This is my body; This is my blood.” We priests dare to repeat His words only because He dwells in us. How grateful we should be to God for our Catholic faith in Christ’s real presence and His gift of eternal life.
My brothers and sisters, if we do not open our open our hearts completely to posses and grow in this divine life within, nothing will satisfy us in this life because we will be constantly in search of something more.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!