Sometimes I feel like I’m way over my head as I contemplate the Holy Eucharist. In truth I am way over my head. While I can say some things that are taught by the Church without causing any heresy, I’m no theologian. I can recite some words that are true and deep, but do I really understand? Hmmmm. The disciples had some similar thoughts and concerns, and some said, “this is a hard saying, who can listen to it.” Listen to John’s gospel reading.
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat? So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever. This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Caper’na-um. Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer walked with him. Jesus said to the Twelve, “Will you also go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:51-69)
Today’s reading from John 6:52 sums up some of this complexity for me. On my own, there’s much I don’t understand and I can sympathize with those who just didn’t believe…yet, I do believe. Why…… why do I believe when I don’t fully understand?
Well, in a nutshell, I believe and I trust in the Lord. The Holy Spirit has given me the grace of believing and an understanding of the essentials needed to believe. The church says a 3rd grader can understand and believe and profess at a level necessary to receive the Eucharist. They understand and believe the same essentials that St. Thomas Aquinas or St. John Paul II or St. Peter believed and professed.
Fr. Walter Ciszek tells of bringing the bread of life to simple men in a Siberian prison camp. “ These men with simple and direct faith, grasped this truth and they believed in it. They could not explain it as a theologian might, but they accepted it and lived by it and were willing to make voluntary sacrifices even in a life of almost total deprivation, in order to receive this bread of life….. no danger, no risk, no retaliation could prevent my saying Mass each day for them.” (Magnificat, 5-6-22, pg. 90) These men believed enough to risk their life to receive Christ in the Eucharist.
For me, my faith is pretty simple…somewhat like a 3rd grader, or a uneducated man in a Siberian prison….. “Jesus says it, then it’s true.” I can’t explain it very well. I really can’t fully explain how earthly food causes me to live and grow and flourish, but I believe it does… without food, I die.
For me, the Eucharist gives the spiritual nourishment for eternal life. The “viaticum” (the last Eucharist before your death) is called “food for the journey”. I pray to receive it one day… to receive the food and nourishment for the journey home… ” for whoever eats this bread will live forever”. (John 6:52) Living eternally in the presence of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ… that is very good news.