The Bread of Life (from my book ‘A Shepherd’s Voice’, 2007)
What makes people alive today? What perks them up? Most of us know that a number of people engage in transitory pleasures to make themselves feel alive. There are those who take drugs and alcohol to feel temporary ecstasy but end up shortening their lifelines. Others want to prolong their lives by trying out all cosmetic measures to look young and alive even to the point of vanity. And there are those who think that uninhibited sexual pleasure is the key to unlock life‘s wonderful secrets, discovering only that it has led them to sinful addiction and perversion.
Our gospel today says: “I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” (John 6:51) The bread offered, broken, and given to us at every Eucharistic celebration, fills the spiritual void within us, makes us no longer hunger and thirst for the temporal pleasures the world offers. When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, we have everything we need to live our lives to the full and to look forward to everlasting life. He is our Living Bread. He gives to us and to the world, a life that lasts forever. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI: “Jesus thus shows that He is the bread of life which the eternal Father gives to mankind.” (Sacramentum Caritatis # 7)
Some years ago, I remember a request from a friend to administer the sacrament of anointing and give Holy Communion to a dying man. The dying person was a very devout Catholic and a former Special Minister of Holy Communion. He was already in the hospital and could barely speak. Before I did the anointing, his son told me that when his father was still able to speak, he gave clear instructions that whatever happened, he should be given Holy Communion before he died whatever the circumstance, whatever his situation. So after anointing him, I gave him a small particle of host which he was able to swallow. He was still conscious and knew whom he was receiving. I was deeply touched by his faith in Jesus as the Bread of Life. I realized that, for him, receiving the Eucharist was a foretaste of the eternal life promised him by God the Father. Indeed, as St Pius X affirms: “Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to heaven.” (Ronald de Sola Chervin, Quotable Saints, p. 79)
Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we are given the blessed opportunity to receive Jesus, the Bread of Life. Holy Communion is a precious moment when Jesus gives His life to us so that we may have life in, with, and through, Him.
Do we truly believe in Jesus as the Living Bread? Whenever we receive Holy Communion, do we experience it as a foretaste of the promise of eternal life? Can we sincerely say, deep in our hearts, that we cannot live without the Eucharist?
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