Stained glass window of the Last Supper in St. Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh. LAWRENCE OP/FLICKR

Spiritual Life

Faith in the Eucharist opens us to receive its graces

With the exception of last Sunday, due to the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we have been hearing for a month now from John chapter 6.

Everything in this chapter is about the Eucharist. We heard about Jesus feeding the five thousand with five barley loaves and two fish. This was a true miracle whose purpose was more than feeding the people earthly food; it was meant to prepare them to understand his power to give them something so much greater in the Eucharist.

We also heard him telling the people who sought after him looking for more bread and fish that rather than seeking the food that perishes, they should seek the food that endures to eternal life. Again, this is the Eucharist.

Then we heard him call himself “the Bread that came down from heaven,” placing the gift of himself in the Eucharist higher than the esteemed gift of manna in the desert, which fortified their ancestors for their journey to the Promised Land. He tells them the true Bread, which he will give, is his own flesh for the life of the world. This will be the food that sustains us on our journey to eternal life.

The promise of this miraculous food was not accepted by the people listening. They grumbled against him and argued with each other about it. They refused to be enlightened to a greater understanding, which faith in the Eucharist demands. They would not go beyond a merely earthly understanding about him or about his promised Eucharist. Earthly possibilities were all they were prepared to accept; earthly hungers were all they wanted to be satisfied.

So, because of his strong teaching on the Eucharist, which they could not accept, the Lord’s followers went from 5,000 to just the Twelve Apostles and a few other disciples. And even among these, as St. John tells us, Judas Iscariot who betrayed him did not believe in the Lord’s gift of the Eucharist.

The people tried to make sense of the Lord’s teaching mostly by watering down his words and changing their meaning. When he heard this, he further intensified his teaching about the Most Holy Eucharist to the point there could be no mistake about what he means. There is no other way to understand John chapter 6 without faith in the Eucharist.

We can be completely assured that what our Lord said he would do, he does. He gives us his true Body and his true Blood in the Most Holy Eucharist. He provides the gift of the Eucharist to sustain us in this life, to transform us so we are made ready for heaven, and to bring us closer to him and so to each other.

He does his part, but what is our part in this? We must work to cultivate a faith like St. Peter, who trusts that the Lord “has the words of eternal life.” With faith in the promise of the Eucharist, we are ready to receive him and all the saving graces that come to us in the Body and Blood of our Lord.

Father John Broheimer is pastor of St. Peter Parish in Omaha.