Dear Followers of Jesus,
In John 6:41-51, we continue to listen to Jesus’s words about food that lasts. Jesus becomes the way the Father feeds us. His presence is real food in the Eucharist. He also fed us with his actions, his healing, and his commands while he was on earth. Jesus feeds in so many ways. We so often want to avoid many of the ways he nourishes us, especially when he invites us to let go of possessions, to welcome the abandoned poor, and to turn the other cheek. We so often ignore such food, such advice, such relationship.
There have been numerous studies, questionnaires, and opinion polls recently about what Catholics believe about the Eucharist. In most of these surveys, only about one third of Catholics believe that Jesus is present in the Eucharist. There are many reasons for people slipping away from faith and the Church. However, I believe that one reason is that the Eucharist is not lived out in our lives in the Church. It is not noticed. Most people would never think that Christians believe in such a miracle because they do not see it revealed in our lives.
This notion reminds me of a quote from C. S. Lewis. In 1910, he noted, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been difficult; and left untried.” I hold on to this because it seems so true to me. Christianity, especially viewed from the Eucharist, is so often stifled by so many of us thinking it is only for personal piety or private salvation.
Instead, the Eucharist is meant to give us a vision of what heaven is and how to live it in the world. As believers, we become the Body of Christ from baptism. The liturgy is corporate prayer of the People of God. In this prayer, we lift our deepest humanity to the Father. We stand among one another learning how to be animators of love in the world. Justice, peace, unity among racial divides, forgiveness among enemies, release of captives, lifting the poor out of desolation, feeding the hungry, forever working for peace, are all gifts of the Holy Spirit from the Eucharist. Perhaps, Lewis is on to something. Christianity is meant to be a revolution, not just a devotion. Christianity does not really ask much of anyone in our world today. Therefore, people have walked away, and the Eucharist has faded into devotional prayer. Challenge, conversion, transformation are the opportunities for rebirth and deeper commitment in the Church today.
Also, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is essential. As Catholics, most people were never given the tools to develop a relationship with Christ. We leaned on the Mass as our only prayer in the Church, as an obligation. We were told we seldom deserved God. We were not good enough or devout enough. Our lifestyle was not holy enough or we were not saintly enough. The outcome of developing a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ is ultimately to examine each day in view of his love for us not his condemnation. Being in relationship with Jesus helps us to learn how to forgive each day, how to examine our lives each night and how to learn ultimately that we are loved by God beyond measure. We are created in him, through him, for him, with him, all for the glory of the Father.
In today’s gospel, we hear Jesus say, “I am the bread of life.” If we hear this at Mass, we need hearts in which these words can resonate. We need a relationship with Jesus that knows what it means to be hungry for his love, his mercy, and his kindness. We also need a life that supports an understanding that only God can ultimately feed us with lasting things, with soul nourishing things such as peace, wisdom, and tenderness.
People were surprised that Jesus, the son of Joseph and Mary, was saying amazing and unbelievable things. They were murmuring among themselves. In so many ways, we have not moved beyond people’s questioning him. We are still murmuring among ourselves, scratching our heads, wondering if Jesus is still among us in this most beautiful and marvelous way in the Breaking of the Bread and in our sharing in the Cup of Salvation.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.
God give you peace,
Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor