I Thought You Should Know | The Holy Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus

In today's scriptural readings, God's revealed word is depicted as God's life-giving antidote to the death-dealing forces at work within our unredeemed human nature.

We see this very clearly in today's first reading from the Book of Kings. Elijah is despondent and depressed. Jezebel is hunting him down, seeking his life. Filled with self-pity, he escapes into the desert to sleep under a broom tree. He asks God to take his life.

Through an angelic messenger, God's word removed Elijah's despondency, energized him to make the long journey and then, when he arrived at the cave on Mount Horeb, God's truth dealt with Elijah's self pity and re-equipped him to return to Israel to continue his ministry.

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells the Jews, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." This brilliant shaft of heavenly light from Jesus exposes the darkness of His followers, who question, "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?'"

Here we have Jesus, the Redeemer of the world, speaking to the unredeemed of the world, who have no clue whatsoever as to how unredeemed they really are! They have become accustomed to a way of living and a way of relating, and they want no one to disturb their way of life. Does this not also sound familiar to us all?

Jesus pushes forward to expose more darkness. "Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day."

Jesus continues to pour it on. He tells them, "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."

Certainly, Christ does not expect them to grasp everything that He is saying. However, He is challenging them to reflect on His teachings and His healings and to begin to recognize God's special presence in Him and in His works. He wants them to begin to see Him as not just another man or just another prophet. He wants them to see that He is the answer to the as-yet-undiscovered hungers of their hearts.

How do you and I differ from Elijah and the disciples of Jesus? We are dealing with the same human nature crying out for redemption! We all come from the same first parents, and we all need God's word to challenge us to open our hearts to the power of God's transforming word in the Scriptures, and to His transforming love in the Eucharist.

Let us simply apply this to our relationships with each other. There are times when it is fun being with our family members and co-workers, and there are times when it is very challenging to be with some of them. There are times when we feel inclined to be kind to those with whom we live and with whom we work, and there are times when we find it very difficult to do so.

Most of the time, of course, it is other people's faults that really get to us. It could never be our fault that we have disagreements! So we rationalize on and on.

That is why we daily need to use the word of God and the teachings of the Church to monitor and measure our behavior. As more and more we allow the Holy Spirit to show us, through the daily examination of conscience, those times when we have been at fault, we will grow in self-knowledge.

If we didn't know Jesus as the one who loves us, this would be depressing. However, because we know Jesus, we are filled with great hope that we know a Savior who came to help people just like us. He has the gifts to refresh our spirits.

These gifts include daily prayer, the Sacrament of Confession, and the Holy Eucharist, among many other gifts.

Today I would like to focus on the refreshing gift of the Holy Eucharist. You may well ask, "Why is the Holy Eucharist such a powerful gift?"

There are many answers to this question. First of all, we believe that Christ is present in the Holy Eucharist, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The Holy Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Jesus. It is not just a symbol of Christ. The Holy Eucharist is Christ.

Secondly, think of the excruciating ("from the cross") pains our Lord felt from the nails through His wrists and through His ankles! Think of the pain and the shame He felt, hanging naked on the cross as a condemned criminal! Yet, He embraced all these pains with a total love of us sinners, and with a total obedience to the Father! The Eucharist is Christ's love released upon the world from the Cross. The Eucharist is the pain, the obedience and the love poured out for sinners from the Cross.

This kind of love cries out for a response from you and from me. This means that there should be no shame too great, no hurt too painful, no weakness too embarrassing, to keep us from coming to the Living Bread of Life – the Holy Eucharist. So what if we must first go to Confession to receive His forgiveness for our mortal sins! I don't think the discomfort of going to Confession can compare with the shame Christ felt as He hung naked on the Cross!

In other words, give your unredeemed nature the luxury of receiving Christ's love for sinners into your hurting and hungry souls. Be willing to suffer great pains to get to the Eucharist, and when you receive Him, get in touch with the pain it cost Him to love you so much!

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