The Gospel passage Bread of Life from John chapter six has been given to us for our Sunday mediation for the past four weeks. On Sunday 16th August 2015 Pope Francis said to the people who visited him, “Eucharist is no mere symbol, but is in fact the true body and blood of Jesus Christ, which has the ability to transform our hearts and minds to be more like him. The Eucharist is Jesus who gives himself entirely to us. To nourish ourselves with him and abide in him through Holy Communion, if we do it with faith, transforms our life into a gift to God and to our brothers. To let ourselves be nourished by the Bread of Life, it is a means to be in tune with the heart of Christ, to assimilate his choices, thoughts, behaviours.”
Mother Theresa began her ministry among the poorest of the poor in Calcutta in 1950s. Among her many admirers was Jawaherlal Nehru the first Prime Minister of India. He visited Nirmal Hriday – meaning the “Home for Pure Heart”. It housed children with deformities, mentally ill patients, handicapped and others who no one cared for. The Prime Minister visited the home and asked the Mother, “Where do you find strength to do all these patient work?” With her usual calm and serenity she took him to the little chapel in the home and pointed out to the Eucharistic Tabernacle and said, “It is from here I get all my strength”.
Mother once said, “When the Sisters who work with me are exhausted, up to their eyes in work; when all seems to go distorted, they spend an hour in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. This practice has never failed to bear fruit: they experience peace and strength.” Once I was a guest in a parish. After the morning Mass a young man came to greet me and confessed that he attends Mass everyday and receives Holy Communion. As I appreciated him for this good practice he surprised me even more when he said, “I am a new convert to Catholic Church. If I don’t receive Eucharist in a day, I am unsettled… it is like I have not taken breakfast that day. Eucharist keeps me going the whole day.”
Many saints relied on the Eucharist for their strength. Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament gave them courage to continue their mission and find joy in their vocation. St. John Bosco, the patron of youth would say, “Do you want the Lord to give you many graces? Visit Him often. Do you want Him to give you few graces? Visit Him rarely. Do you want the devil to attack you? Visit Jesus rarely in the Blessed Sacrament. Do you want him to flee from you? Visit Jesus often. Do you want to conquer the devil? Take refuge often at the feet of Jesus. Do you want to be conquered by the devil? Forget about visiting Jesus. My dear ones, the visit to the Blessed Sacrament is an extremely necessary way to conquer the devil. Therefore, go often to visit Jesus and the devil will not come out victorious against you.”
It is said of Slav King St. Wenceslaus that he took it upon himself to cultivate grapes and wheat with his own hands to make Eucharistic wine and bread. His spirituality rested on this is contribution to made to the Eucharistic Lord. This practice connected his life to that of the Lord. For many saints—ancient and new, young and old, theologians and simple found holiness in having recourse to the Eucharist. Or rather Eucharist made them holy. The youngest confessor-saint Dominic Savio even at the age of 13 could say to his companions, “Ask Jesus to make you a saint. After all, only He can do that. Go to confession regularly and to Communion as often as you can.”
Devotion to the Holy Eucharist is simple and easy be engaged. Through Eucharistic meditation we are able to be connected to Jesus throughout the day. A Venerable Salesian priest Andrew Beltrami who is on his way to canonization would say in all his simplicity, “Wherever I may be I will often think of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I will fill my thoughts with the holy tabernacle (even when I happen to wake up at night) adoring Him from where I am, calling to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, offering up to Him the action in which I am engaged. I will install one telegraph cable from my study to the Church, another from my bedroom, and a third from our refectory; and as often as I can, I will send messages of love to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.”
Engaging our thoughts with Jesus throughout the day is nothing but contemplative life. It orders, regulates, controls, and directs our life, which is nothing but living a good Christian life. It is living according to the words of Jesus, ” If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Eucharist is a frequent theme of meditation and sermons for Pope Francis. Like the saints mentioned above, his words on the Eucharist is simple yet profound. He tells us that Eucharist helps us to tune our life with that of Christ. It also means that we enter into ‘a dynamism of sacrificial love and become persons of peace, forgiveness, reconciliation and sharing in solidarity.’ Eucharist is called “communion”, meaning ‘unity, close association, relationship, empathy and a spiritual union.’ That is the aim and purpose of the Eucharist. In this way the Jesus’ words, “Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world,’ makes deeper meaning. Unless we eat him we will have no life in us and will have no life with him.
“Christ, who nourishes us under the consecrated species of bread and wine, is the same Christ, whom we meet during the course of everyday life: He is in the poor person who holds out his hand in supplication; He is the suffering person who implores our help; He is in the brother or sister who asks us to be there and awaits our welcome; He is in every human being, even the smallest and most defenseless.” May this message of Pope Francis help us to understand well the meaning and importance of Eucharist in our daily life and help us to live by it. May the Eucharist sanctify our lives.