“Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.”
PRAYER FOR THE WEEK
Prayer for Eternal life with God
in glorifying Jesus
and sending us your Spirit,
You open the way to eternal life.
May my sharing in this Gift increase my love
and make my faith grow stronger.
Send Your Spirit to cleanse my life
so that the offering of myself to You at Mass
may be pleasing to You.
May my sharing in the Eucharist,
our Bread of Life,
bring me eternal life.
May the precious long-suffering of the just,
O Lord, we pray,
bring us a great increase of love for you
and always prompt in our hearts
constancy in the holy faith.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
1 Kgs 19:4-8
Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert,
until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it.
He prayed for death saying:
“This is enough, O LORD!
Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree,
but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat.
Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake
and a jug of water.
After he ate and drank, he lay down again,
but the angel of the LORD came back a second time,
touched him, and ordered,
“Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”
He got up, ate, and drank;
then strengthened by that food,
he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 332 Angels have been present since creation and throughout the history of salvation, announcing this salvation from afar or near and serving the accomplishment of the divine plan: they closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot; saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham’s hand; communicated the law by their ministry; led the People of God; announced births and callings; and assisted the prophets, just to cite a few examples.1 Finally, the angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Precursor and that of Jesus himself.2
CCC 2583 After Elijah had learned mercy during his retreat at the Wadi Cherith, he teaches the widow of Zarephath to believe in The Word of God and confirms her faith by his urgent prayer: God brings the widow’s child back to life.3
The sacrifice on Mount Carmel is a decisive test for the faith of the People of God. In response to Elijah’s plea, “Answer me, O LORD, answer me,” the Lord’s fire consumes the holocaust, at the time of the evening oblation. The Eastern liturgies repeat Elijah’s plea in the Eucharistic epiclesis.
Finally, taking the desert road that leads to the place where the living and true God reveals himself to his people, Elijah, like Moses before him, hides “in a cleft of he rock” until the mysterious presence of God has passed by.4 But only on the mountain of the Transfiguration will Moses and Elijah behold the unveiled face of him whom they sought; “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God [shines] in the face of Christ,” crucified and risen.5
1 Cf. Job 38:7 (where angels are called “sons of God”); Gen 3:24; 19; 21: 17; 22:11; Acts 7:53; Ex 23:20-23; Judg 13; 6:11-24; Is 6:6; 1 Kings 19:5.
2 Cf. Lk 1:11, 26.
3 Cf. 1 Kings 17:7-24.
4 Cf. 1 Kings 19:1-14; cf. Ex 33:19-23.
5 2 Cor 4:6; cf. Lk 9:30-35.
The miraculous feeding of the prophet Elijah on his journey through the desert is recalled to mind today, because the Gospel story concerns our Lord’s promise of the miraculous bread which he will give to sustain his followers on their journey through life. That God provided for the bodily needs of his prophet, and that Christ did likewise for the simple people of Galilee, were but a foreshadowing of the spiritual food which Christ would leave to his faithful followers to sustain them during their journey through this life. Of this we shall hear more in today’s Gospel. Let us now see what lessons there are for us in this incident in the life of the prophet Elijah.
Elijah defended the true religion in the northern kingdom against all the power of the forces which the pagan wife of king Achab had introduced into the country. Having won a great victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, Elijah had to flee the country to escape the clutches of the pagan queen. He was on his way to Mount Horeb in Sinai hoping to contact Yahweh where Moses had received the covenant, the covenant which Israel had so seriously violated. On his way, however, weary from travel and short of food he grew despondent and lost heart. In spite of all his endeavors Israel was full of sin and idolatrous practices. His labors were in vain, he would be better off dead. He sat down under a broom tree and asked Yahweh to end his life.
Instead, Yahweh sent an angel to him with food to restore his tired body and mind—a food which gave him the strength to walk without ceasing until he reached Horeb. Here the gracious Lord appeared to him, and having shown him that he was not a God of fury but a God of mercy (1 Kgs. 19: 9-12), he sent him back to continue his work. The reign of Jezabel, the pagan queen, would soon end, for God told Elijah to anoint Jehu as the next king of Israel. Elijah returned to Israel and with renewed vigor continued his work for the true religion of Yahweh.
Here is a story which has encouragement for all of us. Here we have a prophet, God’s own chosen representative, a man full of zeal for God’s honor and glory—a saint, and yet he was as human as the rest of us. He grew tired of fighting a losing battle, he fled from the front, he set out to get protection and consolation from God, but tiring of the long journey he became so depressed and so despondent that he wanted God to take him from this vale of tears. God was not disgusted with him, he did not think him a coward or a failure; instead, he renewed his energies and sent him back to fight on for the Lord.
There are few of us who do not, have our moments, even days maybe, and weeks of spiritual depression. Our crosses seem at times to become unbearable; we feel like lying down under them and asking God to take us. This is exactly what this holy man did and we saw how kindly God dealt with him. God will lift us up too, and if only we rely on him he will give us the strength to carry on. It is he who allows those crosses to come on us, but he does not want them to crush us, he wants us to use them to rise above our earthly weaknesses and to stay closer to him.
The next time I feel despondent, I shall not ask the good God to take, we away from it all; I shall ask him to give me that new strength which he gave to Elijah–the strength to persevere, bearing my cross not only for forty days but for forty more years, if this should be God’s means of assuring me my eternal salvation.
Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Glorify the LORD with me,
Let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
And delivered me from all my fears.
Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy.
And your faces may not blush with shame.
When the afflicted man called out, the LORD heard,
And from all his distress he saved him.
Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Brothers and sisters:
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,
with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.
All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling
must be removed from you, along with all malice.
And be kind to one another, compassionate,
forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.
So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love,
as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us
as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 698 The seal is a symbol close to that of anointing. “The Father has set his seal” on Christ and also seals us in him.1 Because this seal indicates the indelible effect of the anointing with the Holy Spirit in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, the image of the seal (sphragis) has been used in some theological traditions to express the indelible “character” imprinted by these three unrepeatable sacraments.
CCC 1274 The Holy Spirit has marked us with the seal of the Lord (“Dominicus character”) “for the day of redemption.”2 “Baptism indeed is the seal of eternal life.”3 The faithful Christian who has “kept the seal” until the end, remaining faithful to the demands of his Baptism, will be able to depart this life “marked with the sign of faith,”4 with his baptismal faith, in expectation of the blessed vision of God – the consummation of faith – and in the hope of resurrection.
CCC 1296 Christ himself declared that he was marked with his Father’s seal.5 Christians are also marked with a seal: “It is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has commissioned us; he has put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”6 This seal of the Holy Spirit marks our total belonging to Christ, our enrollment in his service for ever, as well as the promise of divine protection in the great eschatological trial.7
CCC 1454 The reception of this sacrament ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God. The passages best suited to this can be found in the Ten Commandments, the moral catechesis of the Gospels and the apostolic letters, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the apostolic teachings.8
CCC 2842 This “as” is not unique in Jesus’ teaching: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”; “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”9 It is impossible to keep the Lord’s commandment by imitating the divine model from outside; there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make “ours” the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.10 Then the unity of forgiveness becomes possible and we find ourselves “forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave” us.11
1 Jn 6:27; cf. 2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:3.
2 St. Augustine, Ep. 98, 5: PL 33, 362; Eph 4:30; cf. 1:13-14; 2 Cor 1:21-22.
3 St. Irenaeus, Dem ap. 3: SCh 62, 32.
4 Roman Missal, EP I (Roman Canon) 97.
5 Cf. Jn 6:27.
6 2 Cor 1:21-22; cf. Eph 1:13; 4,30.
7 Cf. Rev 7:2-3; 9:4; Ezek 9:4-6.
8 Cf. Mt 5-7; Rom 12-15; 1 Cor 12-13; Gal 5; Eph 4-6; etc.
9 Mt 5:48; Lk 6:36; Jn 13:34.
10 Cf. Gal 5:25; Phil 2:1,5.
11 Eph 4:32.
Charity, love of neighbor, is the hallmark of all true Christians. We have it from our divine Lord’s own mouth when he said: “by this will all men know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13: 35). This is the basic virtue of Christianity which St. Paul is urging his recent converts to put into daily practice. First, he tells them what vices and failings they must avoid, and then he describes the positive things they must do in order to live in true charity with their neighbors. He then gives the reason why Christians must love one another, namely, that they are children of God and must imitate their heavenly Father who is Love; they are brothers of Christ who set them such a sublime example of true love.
What St. Paul urged on the Ephesians he is urging on us too. If charity was the hallmark of Christianity in the 1st century, it is still the same in the 20th. If the Ephesians were children of God so, too, are we–thanks to God’s mercy; if they should imitate their Father so, too, must we if we want to be found worthy of the dignity he has conferred on us. Christ died for us as well as for the Ephesians and this he did out of love for us, we must make some return for his sublime example of love.
How do we set about loving our neighbor in a truly Christian manner? St. Paul gives us some guidelines today. Avoid bitterness, he tells us. Bitterness is a feeling of dislike, of resentment which we develop within us against somebody who has done us a real or imagined wrong. Our Christian duty is to forgive a neighbor who has offended us, or who we think has offended us, for often the offense was not intended and the neighbor is not guilty. “Forgive and forget” is a truly Christian advice. One can forgive but still keep remembering the offense; this is not complete forgiveness and the retention of such memories makes one unhappy and develops a certain amount of bitterness against the offending brother. Cast your mind around among those neighbors against whom you have some resentment. Even if they did deliberately offend you, they have also offended God by that same act and that is far more serious; yet God will forgive them; should not you as his child do likewise? You have to turn to God pleading for forgiveness at times; you will obtain that forgiveness if you forgive your neighbor: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If we refuse fully to forgive our neighbor what we are saying in that prayer is: “do not forgive me, Lord, as I do not forgive those who offend me.”
St. Paul tells us to avoid “wrath, anger and clamor,” in other words, uncharitable scenes and quarrels. Although “hot tempers” are especially attributed to Irishmen and redheads, the true fact is that men of all nationalities and colors of hair have their share of this unlovable commodity. It has to be kept in check, or it may lead us to say or do things to a neighbor which are the opposite of charitable. It is often said of a person that he would provoke the anger of a saint. It is not true: a true saint has control of his temper. What the saying really means is: “I am a saintly person but that neighbor’s tongue or actions make me lose my temper.” But that neighbor’s behavior could have been the very test which would prove my sanctity and patience. No one deserves credit for being even-tempered and mild with those who are gentle and kindly in word and deed. It is in our dealings with the unkind and the uncharitable that we must avoid the uncharitable scenes mentioned by St. Paul. A true Christian, instead of paying such uncharitable neighbors back in their own coin, will try to make them better Christians by treating them kindly and charitably. St. Francis de Sales, speaking of charity, says one can catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a barrel of vinegar.
St. Paul goes on to tell us that we must be kind and tender-hearted to one another, not only forgiving any offenses our neighbors may have committed against us but taking them to our heart, making them feel that they are wanted. They are members of the one family and we should gladly sacrifice our own convenience in order to help them along in life. We may not be able to do much but if our “little” comes from a warm charitable heart it can and will work wonders.
The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said,
“I am the bread that came down from heaven,”
and they said,
“Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?
Do we not know his father and mother?
Then how can he say,
‘I have come down from heaven?'”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Stop murmuring among yourselves.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
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.”
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 151 For a Christian, believing in God cannot be separated from believing in the One he sent, his “beloved Son”, in whom the Father is “well pleased”; God tells us to listen to him.1 The Lord himself said to his disciples: “Believe in God, believe also in me.”2 We can believe in Jesus Christ because he is himself God, the Word made flesh: “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.”3 Because he “has seen the Father”, Jesus Christ is the only one who knows him and can reveal him.4
CCC 259 Being a work at once common and personal, the whole divine economy makes known both what is proper to the divine persons, and their one divine nature. Hence the whole Christian life is a communion with each of the divine persons, without in any way separating them. Everyone who glorifies the Father does so through the Son in the Holy Spirit; everyone who follows Christ does so because the Father draws him and the Spirit moves him.5
CCC 591 Jesus asked the religious authorities of Jerusalem to believe in him because of the Father’s works which he accomplished.6 But such an act of faith must go through a mysterious death to self, for a new “birth from above” under the influence of divine grace.7 Such a demand for conversion in the face of so surprising a fulfillment of the promises8 allows one to understand the Sanhedrin’s tragic misunderstanding of Jesus: they judged that he deserved the death sentence as a blasphemer.9 The members of the Sanhedrin were thus acting at the same time out of “ignorance” and the “hardness” of their “unbelief”.10
CCC 728 Jesus does not reveal the Holy Spirit fully, until he himself has been glorified through his Death and Resurrection. Nevertheless, little by little he alludes to him even in his teaching of the multitudes, as when he reveals that his own flesh will be food for the life of the world.11 He also alludes to the Spirit in speaking to Nicodemus,12 to the Samaritan woman,13 and to those who take part in the feast of Tabernacles.14 To his disciples he speaks openly of the Spirit in connection with prayer15 and with the witness they will have to bear.16
CCC 1001 When? Definitively “at the last day,” “at the end of the world.”17 Indeed, the resurrection of the dead is closely associated with Christ’s Parousia:
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.18
CCC 1355 In the communion, preceded by the Lord’s prayer and the breaking of the bread, the faithful receive “the bread of heaven” and “the cup of salvation,” the body and blood of Christ who offered himself “for the life of the world”:19
Because this bread and wine have been made Eucharist (“eucharisted,” according to an ancient expression), “we call this food Eucharist, and no one may take part in it unless he believes that what we teach is true, has received baptism for the forgiveness of sins and new birth, and lives in keeping with what Christ taught.”20
CCC 1428 Christ’s call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, “clasping sinners to her bosom, [is] at once holy and always in need of purification, [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.”21 This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a “contrite heart,” drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first.22
CCC 2835 This petition, with the responsibility it involves, also applies to another hunger from which men are perishing: “Man does not live by bread alone, but. .. by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,”23 that is, by the Word he speaks and the Spirit he breathes forth. Christians must make every effort “to proclaim the good news to the poor.” There is a famine on earth, “not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.”24 For this reason the specifically Christian sense of this fourth petition concerns the Bread of Life: The Word of God accepted in faith, the Body of Christ received in the Eucharist.25
CCC 2837 “Daily” (epiousios) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Taken in a temporal sense, this word is a pedagogical repetition of “this day,”26 to confirm us in trust “without reservation.” Taken in the qualitative sense, it signifies what is necessary for life, and more broadly every good thing sufficient for subsistence.27 Taken literally (epi-ousios: “super-essential”), it refers directly to the Bread of Life, the Body of Christ, the “medicine of immortality,” without which we have no life within us.28 Finally in this connection, its heavenly meaning is evident: “this day” is the Day of the Lord, the day of the feast of the kingdom, anticipated in the Eucharist that is already the foretaste of the kingdom to come. For this reason it is fitting for the Eucharistic liturgy to be celebrated each day.
The Eucharist is our daily bread. The power belonging to this divine food makes it a bond of union. Its effect is then understood as unity, so that, gathered into his Body and made members of him, we may become what we receive. .. This also is our daily bread: the readings you hear each day in church and the hymns you hear and sing. All these are necessities for our pilgrimage.29
The Father in heaven urges us, as children of heaven, to ask for the bread of heaven. [Christ] himself is the bread who, sown in the Virgin, raised up in the flesh, kneaded in the Passion, baked in the oven of the tomb, reserved in churches, brought to altars, furnishes the faithful each day with food from heaven.30
1 Mk 1:11; cf. 9:7.
2 Jn 14:1.
3 Jn 1:18.
4 Jn 6:46; cf. Mt 11:27.
5 Cf. Jn 6:44; Rom 8:14.
6 Jn 10:36-38.
7 Cf. Jn 3:7; 6:44.
8 Cf. Is 53:1.
9 Cf. Mk 3:6; Mt 26:64-66.
10 Cf. Lk 23 34; Acts 3: 17-18; Mk 3:5; Rom 11:25, 20.
11 Cf. Jn 6:27, 51, 62-63.
12 Cf. Jn 3:5-8.
13 Cf. Jn 4:10, 14, 23-24.
14 Cf. Jn 7:37-39.
15 Cf. Lk 11:13.
16 Cf. Mt 10:19-20.
17 Jn 6: 39-40,44,54; 11:24; LG 48 § 3.
18 1 Thess 4:16.
19 Jn 6:51.
20 St. Justin, Apol. 1, 66,1-2: PG 6, 428.
21 LG 8 # 3.
22 Ps 51:17; cf. Jn 6:44; 12:32; 1 Jn 4:10.
23 Deut 8:3; Mt 4:4.
24 Am 8:11.
25 Cf. Jn 6:26-58.
26 Cf. Ex 16:19-21.
27 Cf. 1 Tim 6:8.
28 St. Ignatius Of Antioch, Ad Eph. 20, 2 PG 5, 661; Jn 6:53-56.
29 St. Augustine, Sermo 57, 7: PL 38, 389.
30 St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 67 PL 52, 392; Cf. Jn 6:51.
The main point of doctrine in this part of our Lord’s discourse, as given by St. John, is the necessity for belief in Christ who has come down from heaven. It is only in the last verse of today’s text that Christ explicitly states that he is about to give his own very body as their spiritual food to those who believe in him. The description of himself as “bread from heaven” and the vital difference between the effect of this bread and the manna given to their fathers in the desert, are a definite preparation for the announcement of the doctrine of the Eucharist.
However, before they could even think of accepting this teaching on the Eucharist they had first to accept Christ as divine, as the Son of God. This was not easy for Jews, for whom strict monotheism was the center of their faith. To admit that Christ was God would at first sight seem like admitting two gods. Secondly, even though Christ had worked extraordinary miracles, to all appearances he was still a mere man—and the prophets of old had worked miracles. True, Christ was evidently claiming to be more than a prophet; he claimed that he alone had seen the Father, that he had come from the Father. This claim of equality with the Father would be sheer blasphemy if it were not true; could God give the power of miracles to such a great sinner?
Perhaps some of them argued along these lines and accepted his claim later on. Others remained stiff-necked and stubborn and could see nothing in him but a native of Nazareth, a humble Galilean like themselves, but one who had developed strange ideas about who and what he was. These Galileans began a long line of unbelievers which has stretched down through the centuries to our own day. The reasons for the unbelief are the same today as they were in the year 29 A.D. Man is proud of his intelligence; which he did not give to himself. Whatever he cannot grasp within the limited confines of that intellect, he treats as non-existent as far as he is concerned. If a God exists, a doubtful possibility to these great thinkers, we mortals can know nothing about him; he is beyond our understanding and we can be of no concern to him.
If there ever was a Jesus of Nazareth, he could be only a mere man who suffered from grave hallucinations! But his miracles? A simple answer: there never were any. His disciples invented these stories later. But these disciples were willing to die for these inventions of theirs! Thousands of Christians were martyred rather than deny the divine claims of Jesus! More hallucination, no doubt! Nineteen centuries of Christian history can be shrugged off as easily as that by those who will not believe. If certain statements do not fit in with preconceived ideas then these statements are false; if certain facts do not agree with history, as the unbelievers understand history, then these facts never happened. So man’s limited, finite mind remains the sole judge and arbiter of all truth.
We believe in a loving God, and in his divine Son, Jesus Christ, who came on earth to bring us to heaven, and in the Holy Spirit who completes the work of sanctification in us. Surely, we owe this Blessed Trinity a debt of gratitude! We can never fully repay it. Because of our Christian faith which has come to us from Jesus, we know where we came from, we know whither we are going and we know how to reach that destination. Of all the knowledge a human being can acquire on this earth, the above facts are the most essential and important. Any other knowledge is of temporary value. The knowledge our Christian faith gives us concerns eternity and our journey toward it.
Today, we must thank God from the bottom of our hearts for giving us the Christian faith. This faith means that “God out of the abundance of his love, speaks to men as friends and lives among them so that he may invite and take them into fellowship with himself,” as Vatican II puts it. He did not put us on earth and leave us on our own with nowhere to go except to the grave. He sent his beloved Son on earth. He made us heirs to heaven and left to us, in his Church, all the instruction and aids we need to reach our inheritance. The unbelievers and free-thinkers may feel that they are free to do what they will here on earth, but we know that we have been given the freedom of the children of God for all eternity, if only we live according to the faith given us.
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. used with permission from Ignatius Press
Eucharist as Oneness
The Eucharist gathers people together; it creates for human beings a blood relationship, a sharing of blood, with Jesus Christ and, thus, with God, and of people with one another. Yet in order for this, the coming together on the highest level, to come about, there must first be a simpler level of getting together, so to speak, and people have to step outside their own private worlds and meet together. People’s coming together in response to the Lord’s call is the necessary condition for the Lord’s being able to make them into an assembly in a new way… All eucharistic assemblies taken together are still just one assembly, because the body of Christ is just one, and hence the People of God can only be one… If the eucharistic assembly first brings us out of the world and into the “upper room,” into the inner chamber of faith, this very upper room is yet the place of meeting, a universal meeting of everyone who believes in Christ, beyond all boundaries and divisions; and it thus becomes the point from which a universal love is bound to shine forth, overcoming all boundaries and divisions: if others are going hungry, we cannot live in opulence. On the one hand, the Eucharist is a turning inward and upward; yet only from the depths within, and from the heights of what is truly above, can come the power that overcomes boundaries and divisions and changes the world.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Act of Spiritual Communion
My Jesus, I believe that Thou art present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love Thee above all things and I desire Thee in my soul. Since I cannot now receive Thee sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though Thou wert already there, I embrace Thee and unite myself wholly to Thee; permit not, that I should ever be separated from Thee. Amen.
What is the Mass? The Holy Mass is the highest form of worship.
The four aims of the Mass are; to adore God, to thank Him, to ask Him for forgiveness and to ask Him for our needs.
The Mass is comprised of two major and distinct, though related parts, namely the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. One centers around the Bible, and other, around the bread and wine. However, both form one single act of worship. They are not independent of each other. What is proclaimed in the Liturgy of the Word is celebrated in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Christ is present in both parts; first in His word, then in His Eucharistic action, and;
Christ said that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. This word is our food before the Eucharistic bread: we receive Christ in the Sacred Readings before receiving Him in Holy Communion.
Liturgy of the Word
The purpose of the readings and the homily is to proclaim the Word of God, which has the power to change our lives. We are not simply to listen, but to respond to what is being proclaimed.
The purpose of the Liturgy of the Word is not information, but transformation; not merely to tell what God has done in the past, but what he continues to do today; not merely to instruct, but to lead to worship. Worship is not something we do for God; rather it is our response to what he has done for us.
The Liturgy of the Word leads us to respond to that word by sacrifice in the second part of the Mass.
Liturgy of the Eucharist: Meal and Sacrifice
Family and friends like to enjoy each other’s company through having meals together, eg; family dinners, lunches, birthday parties, picnics etc. It is not surprising then that Jesus chose a meal to be close to us. The prototype of this Eucharistic meal was the Passover meal when the Jews recalled their deliverance from slavery to freedom through God’s intervention.
In Holy Comm-union (community union), everyone is united with Jesus and with each other.
The Eucharist is the same sacrifice of Jesus offered once and for all, re-presented (made present) for us who were not at Calvary under the sacramental sign of the consecrated bread and wine of the Eucharist. The sacrifice at Calvary was bloody, the sacrifice at Mass is not.
We are God’s children and by faith and baptism share in Christ’s priesthood. In the Mass we join our High Priest, Jesus in offering the Sacrifice of His Body and Blood. With the whole Church we unite the offering of ourselves and of all created things with Christ’s offering to the Father. We adore God, we thank Him, we atone for our sins and we ask Him for help.
In the Jewish Passover, the unblemished lamb is sacrificed and eaten by family members. The Body of Jesus is also eaten by the family members of the community during Holy Communion.
We eat to get nourishments and to live. The Mass nourishes us with the Word of God (first part, Liturgy of the Word) and the Body and Blood of Christ (Holy Communion) when Christ comes to our souls to give us a fuller share in His Sacrifice and unite us more closely to Himself and to one another.
When we eat food, the food is transformed into our beings. When we eat the Body and Blood of Christ under the form of bread and wine, Jesus transforms us into Himself.
The Real Presence
When the species (the bread and wine) are consecrated by a priest or bishop, “This is my body, … This is my blood, …” Jesus becomes really and truly present. We call this the Real Presence.
It is no longer bread and wine, but really Jesus Himself. The substance (what the thing is) of bread and wine is changed into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus, even though we can still see and taste the accidents (what we see or taste) of bread and wine. Traditionally, this is called transubstantiation.
It is not symbolic, but Jesus is really present.
“Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.” (John 6:53-54) This passage cannot be understood in a figurative way. In the biblical world, when the words “to eat the flesh and drink the blood” were used metaphorically, they meant to destroy someone, either by slander or by doing physical harm. (See Isaiah 49-26; Psalm 27:2.)
This is precisely why the Jews murmured at Jesus’ words and why his disciples were shocked. They knew the phrase could only be taken literally. Jesus did not correct any misunderstanding on the part of the crowd or his disciples who walked away after He said these Words. (John 6:66) He simply reminded them that it is necessary to have God’s Spirit to be able to accept such a teaching. (John 6:63.)
If we are unable to attend daily mass, the least we should do to offer up our day is offer up a Spiritual Communion.
St John Vianney had this to say about Spiritual Communion;
“If we are deprived of Sacramental Communion, let us replace it, as far as we can, by spiritual communion, which we can make every moment; for we ought to have always a burning desire to receive the good God. Communion is to the soul like blowing a fire that is beginning to go out, but that has still plenty of hot embers; we blow, and the fire burns again. After the reception of the Sacraments, when we feel ourselves slacken in the love of God, let us have recourse at once to spiritual communion. When we cannot come to church, let us turn towards the tabernacle: a wall cannot separate us from the good God; let us say five Our Fathers and five Hail Mary’s to make a spiritual communion. We can receive the good God only once a day; a soul on fire with love supplies for this by the desire to receive Him every moment. O man, how great thou art! fed with the Body and Blood of a God! Oh, how sweet a life is this life of union with the good God! It is Heaven upon earth; there are no more troubles, no more crosses! When you have the happiness of having received the good God, you feel a joy, a sweetness in your heart for some moments. Pure souls feel it always, and in this union consists their strength and their happiness.”
To learn more about the Mystery and Worship of the Eucharistic, please read Blessed Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Dominicae Cenae. You can find it at the link provided below.
Another great teaching website: