Enough for me.

“Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”

Thursday, we celebrated the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus. Today is the Sunday within the Octave, the eight-day period that began Thursday which we spend in celebration of Jesus’ wonderful gift to us. 

Is Jesus’ gift enough?

The Russian poet and singer-songwriter Bulat Okudzhava  wrote ‘The Prayer of François Villon,’ in Polish, Modlitwa François Villona. Its words are those of a person who prays that the Lord will grant gifts to all who ask, and after doing so would leave just a little for him. Its first stanza:

“As long as the world’s still turning, As long as the air’s still sweet, Lord, won’t you give to all of us Whatever it is we need. Give a mind to the wise one, To the coward a swift horse, Give some gold to the happy man, And don’t forget about me.” As the song ends, he repeats “Give a little to everyone, And don’t forget about me. Dajże nam wszystkim po trochu. I mnie w opiece swej miej.”

Is Jesus’ gift enough?

This song strikes home in its melancholy. Is God generous enough to leave just a little for me? Will He remember me in the midst of all the woe and strife in the world? Will my prayer rise up before Him? Will He reach out to me?

St. Thomas Aquinas answered that question as he contemplated the great gift of the Eucharist and our sharing in it. The bread, broken, fractured for us. The wine poured out. In each particle, in each droplet, the fulness of Jesus resides. No person receives more or less of Jesus. All receive equally. There is enough for all. Aquinas also echoes St. Paul in pointing out that while all receive the fulness of Jesus, it is the state of our heart that matters most.

Is Jesus’ gift enough? Yes. Is it enough for me? That is the real question. The state of our hearts in their attitude toward God, the state of our lives in their imaging of Jesus’ way, and our relationship to others shows whether what we have received is enough for us. It is not a question of God’s giving, but our receiving. If we have taken the gift seriously it has changed our hearts. The state of our heart matters most.

Let us, as we fall in worship before this great gift, receive Jesus as enough for me and live in Him. Let us then carry His fulness into the world and to our eternal reward.

Are we
hungry enough?

They all ate and were satisfied.

Last week, we discussed the hungry Jesus and His chief hunger, unity of life with the Father and Spirit and our participation in that reality, that meal where love is perfected. It is the meal to which We have gained access. We were left with the question: Are we hungry? Are we hungry enough to participate in God’s life?

Today we continue the celebration that began this past Thursday, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Holy Church sets aside special Octaves, eight days of celebration that follow special moments in our collective faith life. We celebrate Octaves after Christmas, the Epiphany, Easter, Pentecost, and Corpus Christi. You have to love a Church that focuses on celebrating!

Today’s Gospel tells us that crowd ate and were satisfied. Now we’ve all had plenty of meals where we ate, and remained unsatisfied, perhaps even disappointed.  Yet, when Jesus feeds us we find only satisfaction. The Gospel goes on to tell us that the leftovers filled twelve baskets– in other words, Jesus feeding us leads to an overflowing abundance.

Sunday, in the Octave, is a great moment to reflect. Do we really believe this? Does receiving this bread and wine really make us whole and satisfied? Does this activity, have any real meaning and reality? Do we have any overflowing abundance coming from this feeding? Are Jesus’ promises real?

Father, what are you saying? You’re confusing me. I’ve said that myself to people who called me to express what I really believed.

That is the question, not whether I am confusing you, but taking this very important moment, this eight-day period, and the rest of our lives to come to terms with what we really believe of God’s reality. We can read words – This is my Body. This is My blood. Do this… but reading alone will not move us from disbelief and unbelief and going-through-the-motions, to full faith and overflowing abundance.

If we do anything, as we meet the reality of Jesus’ Body and Blood today, as He passes us in procession, let us make an absolute affirmation of true faith and belief. Let us say and believe: He is here, and I am hungry for Him. Let us eat and be satisfied. Then with that realization of faith, come to see all His promises fulfilled in our lives to overflowing.

Bread for the
journey.

While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.

Some of us may have heard of, or may have even read Henri Nouwen’s “Bread for the Journey.” You can often find quotes from this book on church websites or in bulletins.

Henri Nouwen was a professor at Harvard University and Yale University before becoming the senior pastor at the L’Arche community in Toronto, Canada. L’Arche is a community of people with disabilities living together. Nouwen was a prolific writer and wrote numerous books on spirituality and daily living. Bread for the Journey is one of his most well known. It is a book centered on Jesus Christ as savior, teacher, creator, and peace giver.

Why is it such a popular book? Why does its title ring true for so many Christians?

One term we hear from time to time is way-bread, the Way-bread of the Altar. What a beautiful term. On the night that Jesus was to be arrested, before He was to be killed, He gave us Himself as way-bread.
As prefigured in the journey of Israel, across the dessert, to the Promised Land, where God gave them Manna, bread for the journey, so now Jesus has given us bread for the journey.

We so need this bread, and Jesus gave it to us. We need strength for the journey. We need Him to be part of us; strengthening us, reinforcing and building up what the world tries to tear down.

We hunger for that, both spiritually and physically. In receiving, we recognize that He really fills us for the journey.

Every week we pray, shortly after the Our Father, in the words of St. Paul: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” Our answer, for the journey, is Yes, yes it is. We have Him fully with us, Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity – fully on-board for the journey.

Nouwen’s title tings true because when we receive, we are receiving everything we could possibly need. The greatest gift! Bread for the journey.

Fed by what is
simple.

Brothers and sisters, I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you…

A little girl asked her mother, “Why do you cut the ends off the meat before you cook it?” Her mother told her that she thought the meat absorbed the spices better if you did that. “Maybe check with grandpa, because he taught me to cook.” The little girl went to her grandfather and asked the same question. He told her that he believed the meat absorbed cooking juices better if you cut the ends off. “It keeps the meat tender.” He told her that to be really sure she should ask her great-grandmother because she taught him to cook.

The little girl, determined to know why, went ahead and called great-grandma and asked her the same question. Great-grandma told her very simply, “My cooking pot was too small.” Simple answers.

Some of us are newer to the communion table and others have been approaching for years. We seem to all have our reasons and understandings.

We could go into a long theological discussion on the Eucharistic moment, and our encounter with the Divine in communion. We could consider the Church as a single body fed by the Lord. Those are great lines of thought that should be pursued as time and prayer allow. But there is something much simpler.

We can liken God to the deepest lake or the highest mountain. Just by gazing and encountering Him, standing in His presence, we instinctively know and feel His majesty. God speaks to our hearts by His mere presence. We are here in His house, in His presence in a very special way, and we can simply know that we are with Him. That is beautiful, but there is more.

A theologian or philosopher would want to not only scale the mountain or dive into lake, they would want to explore its every nook and cranny. That is wonderful, but we don’t have to go that far. God provides an answer.

The wonderful thing about God is that He is not wiling to just be looked at. He wants a full-on encounter with us at the deepest level. While some of us might be uncomfortable climbing a mountain or diving into a lake to experience it full on, God does not wait for us to do so. He brings the refreshment of the lake, the depth of His love and care, and the majesty of His being and goodness right into our lives. He does not stand apart, separated from us. He is with us.

God answers our most basic need – to be fed, to be strengthened, to be made complete, and to fully experience Him. He comes to us in the Eucharistic moment – giving us His eternity – for which we proclaim our thanks and then He simply feeds our every need. He is simply and completely with us.

SacramentHoly-Communion

I believe in
—— ——

While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

The words at the very top of this reflection “I believe in —— ——” are the same as last Sunday.

These two weeks are about core-required beliefs for the Christian man, woman, and child. Last week it was about the identity of God, We believe in One God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This week it is about the bread and wine we offer as a community. What is that bread and wine when we consume it while kneeling at the altar rail?

Jesus assured us on many occasions that we would eat His flesh and drink His blood. This wasn’t something He came up with on the night of the Last Supper. This is His purposeful gift.

In His discourse with His disciples He said: This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

Jesus knew very well that many would not accept this. For Jews consuming blood is not Kosher at all nor is eating human flesh. We have confirmation of this because shortly thereafter many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him.

This dialog happened shortly after Jesus fed the multitude. They wanted to make Him their king because of His miracles. A day or so later He was almost alone.

So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

This is our test. Do we stay or go? Jesus’ way, His teachings, everything about Him including the faith we must have to proclaim these core beliefs about His identity and the gift He has given us are not easy. When we kneel, what are we kneeling to? What is this bread and wine? If we believe in Him and the reality of His gift, let us kneel and proclaim I believe! I receive You!