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Sunday, July 14, 2024

The Eucharist and Daily Living

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By Fr. James Walker

It is a most natural thing for us to eat every day, three times a day at least. Staple foods recommended by nutritionists include bread products, dairy products, vegetables, proteins and more. This is all good to satisfy the needs of our human bodies.

Often the ‘other part’ of us, our souls, are not paid due attention on a daily basis. Thanks to the gracious decision of Pope St. Pius X over a century ago, we can care for our soul’s daily need for nourishment as well. The Holy Father lowered the age for the reception of Holy Eucharist to the age of seven.

Jesus Christ instituted the rite of Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper. He gifted us with the greatest gift ever offered – Himself to us in the form of Holy Communion. This grace allows us to be fully united to God Himself.

Many of the saints have shown us the why and the how of receiving Communion as part of our daily lives. St. Teresa of the Andes who died at the age of nineteen matured quickly in her own holiness as a teenager. She was known in her high school years in Chile for her own “good life” from the time she was fifteen years old. Who would not want to share in the same “good life?” It is precisely what every human is drawn to by nature. We are familiar with the great St. Augustine’s comment: “Our hearts are restless and ever will they be until they rest in Thee.” An uplifting and supportive statement such as the one offered in his Confessions by St. Augustine appeals to us so readily. It also is identified with our instinctive goal for union and happiness with God for eternity.

We enjoy many reasons consistent with our nature to receive Jesus Christ in the Eucharist every day. Now is the perfect time to nourish our souls routinely, solidifying our union with the Risen Christ. In doing so, we can be assured of the very graces we require, especially in the milieu in which we live today.

Want happiness? Want to be fed, supported fully? Move now into the call of our Bishops to renew ourselves by this Eucharistic revival, especially in our own country, our own diocese, our own parish. This can only help us to help ourselves at a most challenging time in our nation.

What Does St. Augustine Say About the Eucharist?

“What you see on God’s altar, you’ve already observed during the night that has now ended. But you’ve heard nothing about just what it might be, or what it might mean, or what great thing it might be said to symbolize. For what you see is simply bread and a cup – this is the information your eyes report. But your faith demands far subtler insight: the bread is Christ’s body, the cup is Christ’s blood. Faith can grasp the fundamentals quickly, succinctly, yet it hungers for a fuller account of the matter. As the prophet says, “Unless you believe, you will not understand.” [Is. 7.9; Septuagint] So you can say to me, “You urged us to believe; now explain, so we can understand.”

“Inside each of you, thoughts like these are rising: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, we know the source of his flesh; he took it from the virgin Mary. Like any infant, he was nursed and nourished; he grew; became a youngster; suffered persecution from his own people. To the wood he was nailed; on the wood he died; from the wood, his body was taken down and buried. On the third day (as he willed) he rose; he ascended bodily into heaven whence he will come to judge the living and the dead. There he dwells even now, seated at God’s right. So how can bread be his body? And what about the cup? How can it (or what it contains) be his blood?” My friends, these realities are called sacraments because in them one thing is seen, while another is grasped. What is seen is a mere physical likeness; what is grasped bears spiritual fruit.

“So now, if you want to understand the body of Christ, listen to the Apostle Paul speaking to the faithful: “You are the body of Christ, member for member.” [1 Cor. 12.27] If you, therefore, are Christ’s body and members, it is your own mystery that is placed on the Lord’s table! It is your own mystery that you are receiving! You are saying “Amen” to what you are: your response is a personal signature, affirming your faith. When you hear “The body of Christ”, you reply “Amen.” Be a member of Christ’s body, then, so that your “Amen” may ring true! But what role does the bread play? We have no theory of our own to propose here; listen, instead, to what Paul says about this sacrament: “The bread is one, and we, though many, are one body.” [1 Cor. 10.17] Understand and rejoice: unity, truth, faithfulness, love. “One bread,” he says. What is this one bread? Is it not the “one body,” formed from many? Remember: bread doesn’t come from a single grain, but from many. When you received exorcism, you were “ground.” When you were baptized, you were “leavened.” When you received the fire of the Holy Spirit, you were “baked.” Be what you see; receive what you are. This is what Paul is saying about the bread.

“So too, what we are to understand about the cup is similar and requires little explanation. In the visible object of bread, many grains are gathered into one just as the faithful (so Scripture says) form “a single heart and mind in God” [Acts 4.32]. And thus it is with the wine. Remember, friends, how wine is made. Individual grapes hang together in a bunch, but the juice from them all is mingled to become a single brew. This is the image chosen by Christ our Lord to show how, at his own table, the mystery of our unity and peace is solemnly consecrated. All who fail to keep the bond of peace after entering this mystery receive not a sacrament that benefits them, but an indictment that condemns them.

“So let us give God our sincere and deepest gratitude, and, as far as human weakness will permit, let us turn to the Lord with pure hearts. With all our strength, let us seek God’s singular mercy, for then the Divine Goodness will surely hear our prayers. God’s power will drive the Evil One from our acts and thoughts; it will deepen our faith, govern our minds, grant us holy thoughts, and lead us, finally, to share the divine happiness through God’s own son Jesus Christ. Amen!”

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was a bishop, theologian, and is a Doctor of the Church.

Fr. James Walker is the Resident Chaplain of Villa Guadalupe, the home for the elderly run by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Gallup, NM.


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