The gift of faith through the Eucharist
Some reflections on the readings for the Eucharist for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): 1 Kings 19:4–8; Psalm 34:2-9; Ephesians 4:30–5:2; St John 5:41–51.
The Eucharist nourishes eternal life
Our Lord Jesus Christ packs three momentous lessons into this discoures on the Eucharist in today’s Gospel reading.
Firstly, He points out the mystery of faith, that no one can believe in Him, “unless he is drawn by the Father.” Faith in Jesus Christ supplies us with life’s only dependable fuel and yet, faith in Christ is God’s gift. No one can conjure it up on their own, in a chemistry lab. When we look at the bread, no scientific test can prove that Jesus Christ is truly present there, body and blood, soul and divinity. Yet, we know that He is: we have been given the gift of faith.
Secondly, this fatih in Christ leads to eternal life. Later in the Gospel, Jesus tells us that eternal ife consists in knowing “the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom [God has] sent” (St John 17:3). In Biblical language, “knowing” implies deep interpersonal intimacy, the kind of relationship for which we all yearn. That we can have a relationship with God Himself, who is more lovable, more beautiful than any other person can be, is the Good News of Jesus Christ. God has not kept his distance from us sinner; he wants us to know Him and share His life.
Thirdly, Jesus himself is the “bread” of this eternal ife, its source and sustenance. Without bread, without food, physical life perishes. Without Jesus, without his “flesh for the life of the world” in the Eucharist, our life of intimate communion with God will perish. It is that simple — and it is that crucial.
Eleven times in this passage, Jesus speaks of Himself as the bread of life; He is really hoping that we will get the message.
The gift of faith gives us access to eternal life, and the Eucharist makes that life grow within us.
Living on the Eucharist
We accept and believe this on faith, but it is not a blind faith. God supports our faith in many ways. He knows that the culture of this world is constantly trying to erode our faith. So, in His wisdom and according to His providence, He sends us miracles, sometimes dramatic miracles, to give our tired faith a turbo boost.
The history of the Church is full of Eucharistic miracles. Recorded miracles include hosts that have survived fires, hosts that started to bleed during Mass, hosts that lost their appearance of bread and transformed into flesh…
But some of the most remarkable signs that God has given us regarding the Eucharist has to do with Holy Communion. Through the centuries, there have been many saints, both men and women, who have lived for entire periods of their lives simply on the Eucharist.
Among these are St Catherine of Siena and Blessed Alexandrina da Costa, from Portugal. But one of the most amazing cases was St Nicholas of Flue, who living in Switzerland during the 1400s, lived as a hermit and for 19 years during that time, he ate or drank absolutely nothing except daily Communion. Even when he tried to eat normal food, he simply coud not keep it down.
Our Lord Himself explained to Blessed Alexandrina why He gives this grace to His some of His saints:
You are living by the Eucharist alone, because I want to prove to the world the powre of the Eucharist and the power of my life in souls.
Christ is the fullness of life and meaning that we all hunger for, and the Eucharist is Christ’s real presence. This is what our faith teaches us.
As Pope Benedict XVI put it:
In the sacrament of the altar, the Lord meets us, men and women created in God’s image and likeness, and becomes our companion along the way. In this sacrament, the Lord truly becomes food for us, to satisfy our hunger and freedom. Since only the truth can make us free, Christ becomes for us the food of truth.Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, #2.
Activating our faith
Faith is connected to the Eucharist because it reveals Christ’s presence to us, but it is also connected in another way. Physical food nourishes our bodies simply by the act of eating. Our digestive processes take over as soon as we swallow our food. We do not have to think about it; our attidtude does not help or hinder it.
It is not so with the spiritual food of the Eucharist. If we receive the Eucharist out of routine, in a distracted frame of mind, we will not receive all the graces that God wants to give us. But if, on the other hand, we receive the Eucharist with the right dispositions, God’s grace will have more room to act, strengthening our souls and making our spirits grow.
Faith, a lively profound, and solid faith, is part of this right disposition. As we pray before the Eucharist, or as we come foreward to receive Holy Communion, we should activate our faith, consciously stir it up. We should focus our attention as completely as possible on Jesus Christ, the living bread who has come down from heaven to be our spiritual food. Immediately after receiving Holy Communion, we should enter into a conversation with Him in our hearts. This is why the Church invites us to have some time of silence after Communion, so that we can activate our faith and spiritualy digest the living bread.
If this is hard, there is no need to be afraid. Remember, it is the Father who draws us to His Son; it is God who gives us the gift of faith. So, if we need a boost of faith, al we have to do is ask for it, saying, humbly and confidently,
Lord, increase my faith, so that your grace can bear more fruit in my life.