Food for Eternal Life
My dear bothers and sister,
Without a doubt, a basic necessity of natural life is food. Our world today seems to be concerned only with the things of the flesh especially physical food. We know that we are composites of spiritual and material elements and so desire both, but hardly do we look for those spiritual elements that sustain life and make it worth living. The physical food we consume is only to keep the flesh going and we do our best to consume enough of that but what efforts have we made to sustain the life of our souls?
For this reason, wisdom in the first reading (Proverbs 9:1-6) invites us to “come and eat bread and drink wine”. This invitation is not to satisfy a physical need but to take care of a spiritual need. It is not a physical food but a spiritual food though it comes in physical form. This invitation is an invitation to the Holy Sacrifice of the mass, and the bread we are invited to eat is the body of Christ and the wine is the blood of Christ, all contained in the Holy Eucharist, the food for eternal life. It is also for this reason that it is said “happy are those who are invited to the banquet of the Lord”.
Truly, the body of Christ is real food for our souls and his blood is real drink. Whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood lives in Christ and Christ lives in him. The Church teaches us that Jesus Christ alone can satisfy our hunger. We cannot have life unless we eat his body and drink his blood. He alone is the food that corresponds to our deepest hunger. The Eucharist is the final guarantee of God’s unending concern for the whole man and the whole human family in all our needs, both earthly and heavenly. In the Gospel of today, Jesus reminds us that “I tell you most solemnly, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day”. This is the New Testament, the word of life, but the Jews receive Jesus’ words as harmful and rise up in anger. Today, how do we respond to this divine invitation to come and eat of the bread that came down from heaven? How can we eat Christ? What does the Holy Mass mean to us?
We need to recognize that the Holy mass is a sacrifice of thanksgiving and as the second reading of today (Eph. 5:15-20) exhorts us, we have to be filled with the Spirit, sing the words and tunes of psalms and hymns when we are together, so that always and everywhere we are giving thanks to God who is our father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. But there is more, the Holy Mass is an opportunity for us to meet and encounter our God; a chance for us to worship our Father and Creator; a opportunity to be filled by the Holy Spirit. Our God, the blessed Trinity, is fully present in the Holy Mass.
Let us live in the state of grace, to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord every time celebrating the Holy Mass. Do not forget that, when we come to handle the bread and wine on the Lord's Table we make our request in confidence because we have been told that we should ask for this food of eternal life. We receive the gracious gifts in faith, looking to eternal life, remembering that Jesus said to men in flesh that his life would be shared with them in the material stuff of life in this world, which is God's special provision for us earthly believers as we travel on our journey of faith towards the Kingdom of God. Amen.
Fr. Joseph Pham Quoc Van, O.P.