We are quite familiar with the proverbial statement: “you are what you eat”. Needless to say that a balanced diet makes us stay healthy and alive, while improper or poor nutrition makes us unhealthy and sick, and sometimes can lead to death. Proper nutrition helps in providing the body with sufficient energy to function properly. Without food, we face the crisis of hunger and consequently, death. The global statistics affirm that ‘around 9 million people die every year of hunger and hunger-related diseases.’ Similarly, man, as a spiritual being ought to be nourished and sustained spiritually in order to be spiritually alive.
The truth of the antecedent becomes clearer when Jesus says in today’s Gospel (cf. Jn. 6:35-40): ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst. Here, Jesus invites us to deepen our relationship and enter into communion with him in order to be sustained and nourished spiritually. When we enter into communion with Christ through the Eucharist, we grow in his love and become more like him through the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit received from this communion. In his Easter Sermon, 227, St. Augustine exhorts: “If we receive the Eucharist worthily, we become what we receive.” And in receiving Christ, we become one body in him, and through him, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Through receiving the Eucharist, we enter into a unique and personal relationship with the Trinity and with one another, the Body of Christ.
The Bread of life (Body of Christ) which we receive is the Risen Christ, the Christ who now sits at the right hand of the Father, as affirmed by Stephen before his death. Therefore, the Eucharist should also make us grow in confidence and stand firm in the face of difficulties, persecutions, pandemics, sickness, death, despair, etc. When we eat the Body and drink the Blood of Christ (a memorial of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection), we proclaim and share in his sufferings and death in order to also share in the glory of his resurrection at the last day. An example of this is the bitter experience of persecution by the early Christians following the martyrdom of Stephen, in the First Reading (cf. Acts. 8:1-8). We are told that ‘Saul worked for the total destruction of the Church; he went from house to house arresting both men and women and sending them to prison.’ In the face of this, their faith and hope in the risen Christ never died, rather, wherever they fled to, they continued with the work of evangelization, reflecting the person of Christ to the people. We see the fruits of this evangelization in the case of Philip who fled to Samaria – ‘great rejoicing in that town.’
Dear friends in Christ, difficult moments call for firmness and ever-increasing confidence in the power of God. The threats of COVID-19 faced in our world today is in itself a kind of persecution to our faith, but are we going to allow fear and despair choke our hope and faith in Christ? Inasmuch as many cannot go to the Church this period, it does not suffice to remain idle without sharing God’s Word together as a family and living by out its examples. This challenging moment calls us to reflect Christ towards one another in words and deeds of mercy – in fact, a call to become like Christ, the Eucharist we have eaten over time, in order that ‘the earth might cry out with joy to God,’ as stated in today’s Psalm [Ps. 65(66):1-7], a similar example of Philip’s experience in Samaria – ‘great rejoicing in that town.’
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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