Jesus is our Bread of Life (Liturgy of the Eucharist)
For the past few weeks, we have been doing a homily series on Mass as Heaven on Earth. I will give a little recap for the interest of our visitors or parishioners who have not been to Mass lately. In weeks 1, 2 & 3, we explained that at each Mass, God comes to meet us where we are here on earth. The Lord Jesus is present in the minsters – the priest, altar servers, readers, music …, in the people and in his Word. Most especially He is present under the Eucharistic species – The Bread and Wine. The CCC 1405 says, “There is no surer pledge or dearer sign of this great hope in heaven than the Eucharist. Hence, this week we want to focus on the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist
The liturgy of the Eucharist starts with the offertory, which shows our commitment. The offering we give – bread and wine, money, is a sign of our support to the church and thanksgiving for the many gifts God has given us. It is also a sign that we are offering ourselves and all we have to God. It is this our human gift that is in turn transformed into the Divine and Eternal bread of life and spiritual drink.
This mystical transformation is expressed in the prayer said by the priest before the consecration. The priest pours a little water into the wine in the chalice and says, “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” This mingling is a rich symbol suggesting that what Jesus did on Calvary is being repeated on the altar. The priest invites us to lift up our hearts to God – we are taken up in the spirit to Heaven. We join the Angels and Saints to sing the Holy, Holy, Holy, reminding us that we are in a sacred space and moment.
The climax of the Eucharistic sacrifice is during the prayer of consecration when the material bread is transformed to the Body of Christ and the wine to the Blood of Christ. We unite ourselves with God the Father and with each other by praying the Our Father. And Jesus feeds us with his Body and Blood. This is the food that leads to eternal life. How wonderful it will be when we celebrate the Mass with this awareness that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. How wonderful it will be when we long for him, the same way we long for material food and drink. He will surely satisfy all our longings.
Sacrifice of Love
I will like to illustrate what the Eucharist does for us with this Story by Fr. Robert de Grandis S.S.J. In his book “Th Healing power of the Eucharist” he told a story, that sometime ago in Armenia, after an earthquake, a mother and her little daughter was trapped in debris. After sometime, the daughter got hungry and began to cry. Looking around, the mother saw a bottle of marmalade, she stretched out her hand, grabbed it, and with that, fed her daughter. As days passed by, the little girl felt dehydrated and began to cry. To prevent her daughter from dying, the mother did something that was a bit strange. She found a broken glass around her and cut her arm with it, and her arm began to bleed. She asked her little daughter to lick the blood, but she refused. The mum told her, my little daughter, if you don’t lick this blood you will die of dehydration. Left with no other choice the little daughter licked her mother’s blood and it sustained her life. As God would have it, rescuers came and rescued both of them alive. The mother showed her daughter the greatest act of love and sacrifice. She was willing to suffer pain and to die instead of seeing her daughter die. If the daughter had not obeyed and licked the blood, she would have died.
As human beings, we all experience hunger and thirst. And we work hard to provide food and drink for ourselves and our families. Why do work so hard? Because there is the innate desire in us to preserve our life and to experience life to the full. We all want a life that is free from suffering and pain.
Today Jesus distinguishes two different types of life, two types of hunger and two types of thirst. There is the physical hunger and thirst which is satisfied by material food – bread and wine or water, but after eating and drinking, one day we die physically and all will be lost. However, there is also a spiritual hunger and thirst which can only be satisfied by the Living Bread that leads to eternal life – and that is the Eucharist, Jesus Himself.
Fulfilling Our Hunger and Thirst
In today’s gospel Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51). Like that mother that saved her daughter’s life by feeding her with marmalade and quenched her thirst with her blood, Jesus gives us his body as food and quench our thirst with his blood. And like that mother, Jesus said, if you don’t drink my blood, you will die. That was strange/absurd to the Jews hence they couldn’t believe Jesus.
You know, to accept the teachings of Jesus and the church we need humility, faith and wisdom that comes from God. Hence the first reading talks about wisdom and St. Paul in the second reading tells us to change our mindset – think and act not like the world.
Many people in our modern world today are hungry and thirsty of material food. But in our Western society many people experience a different type of hunger and thirst. They experience absence, alienation, loneliness, communication gaps and emptiness. They yearn for presence and loving care of a person who is close by. Unfortunately, our consumer society can’t satisfy their hunger. The great consolation which God (or Christianity) offers to humankind hunted by the threat of alienation, is that in the Eucharistic Jesus, God is close by. He is the Emmanuel – God with us. It takes wisdom and faith to discover this hidden treasure. Only Jesus can satisfy our deepest hunger and thirst – physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.
Whenever you feel lonely or trapped in the debris of life, whenever you feel the need of presence, and perhaps have been disappointed on the human level, know that Jesus Christ is present to you. Turn to him in faith and he will feed you with new life and hope.
Suggestion for this week: 1) Listen to a talk on the Eucharist on our website or watch the Eucharistic miracles on YouTube. 2) Go to adoration on Thursdays and spend some time with Jesus. It starts from 9am to 5pm. 3) When you receive Holy Communion, take a moment of silence to welcome Jesus into your heart. Don’t look at other people, or leave immediately. Imagine Jesus has entered into your home, joyfully welcome him and share with him your life experiences – joys and sorrows, concerns and plans. Ask him for help.