Saturday, September 22, 2018

Pala: The Sacrament of Love (Sunday Gospel: John 6:51-58)


THE Catechism of the Catholic Church (136-137) teaches us that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life. The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself.”

Earlier before this, Jesus fed thousands of people with the multiplication of the loaves and fish. But today Jesus is offering us the “living bread,” His own body and blood. How do you respond to his offer? Do you stay and accept Jesus or leave? Jesus approaches us in a very unique way in the Holy Eucharist. When He comes to us, we receive Him in His whole person into our person - body and soul, beautiful, intimate and personal. This is probably why we also call it as Holy Communion since we “unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body.” (CCC 151)

In the gospel today Jesus not only gives us his body but also his blood. This was misunderstood by many of those who listened to him for they asked how Jesus can give his flesh to eat. The disciples themselves are more interested in what Jesus wanted them to do and not in what Jesus is offering - eternal life. They cannot hear Jesus. It came to a point later in the gospel that his followers after hearing Jesus speak said, “This sort of teaching is very hard! Who can accept it?” It scandalized everyone just like when Jesus told them about his passion and death.

“The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. “Will you also go away?” the Lord's question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only he has “the words of eternal life” and that to receive in faith the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself.” (CCC 161-162) The Eucharist is a mystery not to be understood but to be lived.

Our minds are trained to ask and question: What is this Jesus telling us? How can he offer us his own flesh and blood? The same way his followers asked him. But unlike his followers pray for the grace to listen to him. Allow Jesus to speak to your heart. And speak to Jesus from your heart. His is an invitation to encounter him, to know him and to love him. Today and every time you receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - take everything and anything in your life that is troubled or in pain and allow it find a home in Jesus. For Jesus once said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt. 11:28-30)

Pope Francis points to the Eucharist as a Sacrament of Love. He said that the Eucharist is at the heart of “Christian initiation,” together with Baptism and Confirmation, and it constitutes the source of the church’s life itself. From this Sacrament of love, in fact, flows every authentic journey of “faith, of communion, and of witness.”

In one of his recent audience at St. Peter’s Square the Pope reminded the people that we should leave every Mass better than we entered. At the end of the Mass, the priest says, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” Our encounter with Jesus does not end when the celebration of the Eucharist ends. Pope Francis asserts, “While the Mass ends, the commitment for Christian witness opens. We leave the church to go in peace to bring the blessing of God to our daily activities, to our homes, to our work, to the affairs of the earthly city, glorifying the Lord with our lives.”

The effects of the Mass should find fulfillment in the way we live out our lives as Christians. We become Eucharistic men and women as Pope Francis explained that “the Mass, particularly with this commission to go in peace to love and serve the Lord, “finds fulfillment in the concrete choices one makes [and] involves us first-hand in the mysteries of Christ. It further means allowing Christ to act in and through the choices one makes, taking on his thoughts, feelings and actions.” We become more and more Christ-like.

Now go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Believe, celebrate and live the Holy Eucharist!