Thursday, April 18, 2013

“If it is "daily bread," why do you take it once a year? . . . Take daily what is to profit you daily”

“If souls but understood the Treasure they possess in the Divine Eucharist, it would be necessary to encircle the tabernacles with the strongest ramparts for, in the delirium of a devouring and holy hunger, they would press forward themselves to feed on the Bread of Angels. The Churches would overflow with adorers consumed with love for the Divine prisoner no less by night than by day.” - Blessed Dina Belanger of Québec

(Gospel Text: Jn 6:44-51)
Jesus said to the crowds:
“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.”

I watched the Oscar winning movie “Gandhi” many years ago but one scene remains vivid in my memory. After Gandhi returned from South Africa and started getting involved in the struggle of Independence of India, he made a journey all over the country to see and live “India” in the villages. One of his close friends joined him in these trips, a missionary he knew in South Africa, C. F. Andrews. In this particular scene from the movie, they are travelling by a bus and Andrews notices some villagers sitting on the roof of the bus. They invite him to go up. Once he reaches the top, the villagers welcome him with broad smiles. One of them asks in his broken English, “You, Christian?” Andrews nods yes. The villager continues, “I know Christians. They drink blood”. Now Andrews is perplexed. But the villager continues, “The blood of Christ… every morning..”

Sounds funny; but it is true. Catholics not only drink the blood of Christ, we eat his flesh too. That is what Jesus did two thousand years ago. On the Feast of Passover, at the table when he broke bread with his friends, he told them that it was his body and when he shared the cup of wine with them, he told them it was his blood.

While the other evangelists speak about the sharing of bread and wine during the last supper, St John leaves that space to mention another important event. Jesus makes himself small by washing the feet of his disciples. And then he gives us the second of “the great commandments” -that of loving one another. In a way, John reminds us that Jesus has equated the Eucharist with loving one another. When we reach out to one another in the loving service of “washing one another’s feet”, we are following Jesus.  Mother Teresa said, “In the Mass we have Jesus in the appearance of bread, while in the slums we see Christ and touch him in the broken bodies, in the abandoned children.” Our celebration of the Lord’s Supper at the Mass should enable us to see Christ in the suffering people around us. It should enable us to reach out to them in loving service.

Arch Bishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador said, “My hunger is my physical problem, but the hunger of my neighbor is my spiritual problem. It needs more attention than my own hunger”. The hunger of others is a challenge for us. When Jesus shares his body as food for us, he in turn challenges us to bring food for others. Are we willing to accept this challenge? Romero took up the challenge and died the death of a martyr for that cause. The day after the Last Supper, Jesus was crucified. If we take up this challenge, then we should be ready to take up our own cross and follow the Crucified Savior wherever he calls us to go.

Let us therefore be reconciled with God. Let us bring that reconciliation to others. For in this is our peace; in this lies the greatest hope for our world.

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