In the First Reading from Kings we hear the story of a starving Elijah being fed by God for his journey to Mount Horeb. In the Gospel of St. John Jesus tells us that He is the Bread of Life. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven…” We receive the living God, just like the hymn says! And when we are on the way to our final destination we may receive the Eucharist also—it used to be called the Holy Viaticum, “food for the journey.” It is food to sustain us for the journey back home to God—both during our sojourn on earth and at the very end of life.
The famous doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, gave us four reasons for why we need/want and should consume the Eucharist regularly; and he related his reasons to ordinary food. The first reason is obvious: nourishment! We will die if we do not eat, and St. Thomas reminds us that if we do not partake of the Eucharist our faith will begin to die. (The largest ‘Church Group’ next to practicing Catholics are those that have fallen-away; the lapsed Catholics who do not go to Church anymore or practice the Catholic faith.)
Second: We eat to grow—in the case of the Eucharist: to grow in our faith. We should continue to grow in faith for our entire life journey. We may ‘judge’ our own growth by our work and commitment to ministry, to service, by our compassion, kindness and love as witnesses for Christ in all aspects of our life. (That is what Reconciliation is all about…)
Third: Food heals us—just think of chicken soup when you are feeling badly! The Eucharist heals us and strengthens us from the damage done to us by our sins. In prayer and reconciliation we continue our personal journey to holiness and God’s intention for us to be our better selves. The Eucharist helps to quietly heal and repair injury done to our souls by poor personal choices and priorities; it strengthens us to do and be better in our journey of faith and life.
Fourth: St. Thomas tells us that food brings us pleasure and joy. (I can say that I understand this part all too well!) We all enjoy good food in the company of friends and family, sharing a meal together, gathering at our tables.
The Eucharist requires us to come to the table with the desire to take, give thanks, break open, and eat. We need to always understand that these actions we do at every mass require sacrifice—that’s why it is called a sacrificial meal—Jesus gives us His Body so we become the Body of Christ. We must be changed by this action; it must inform our lives and decisions.
The Eucharist is food for our journey. It nourishes us, it sustains us, it heals and strengthens us. We have been given the gift of joy in Communion with each other: a foretaste of the eternal banquet in heaven!
Just a Note: We are lifted and carried by the Eucharist in spite of all we do—here is a song about being healed of all those things by being carried to the table of the Lord…