Alleluia: Living Bread

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
June 19, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/061922.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the most intimate and sacred feast of “Corpus Christi”, as we called it in our Latinized “old days”. In those days, we tried very hard to celebrate the feast in the best way we knew how — processions, hymns, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Yet nothing did, nor ever will, come close to capturing the mystery we honor on this holy day.

Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven,
says the Lord;
whoever eats this bread will live forever.


The items of faith contained in this short verse are earth-shattering. We are asked to believe that Jesus

  • came down from heaven
  • is the visible Presence of the infinite Love of God
  • lives on with in the Eucharist and in the community of the Church
  • grants us a share in eternal life
  • and is present to us beyond time, space, and appearances

The mystery of the Body of Christ/Living Bread is infinite and profound. Great minds such as Pierre Teilhard deChardin spent entire lives plumbing its depths.

When one understands how physical and immediate is the omni-influence of Christ, the vigor assumed by every detail of the Christian life is quite astonishing; it gains an emphasis never dreamt of by those who are frightened of the realistic view of the mystery of the Incarnation.

Take charity, for example, that complete change of attitude so insistently taught by Christ. It has nothing in common with our colorless philanthropy, but represents the essential affinity which brings human beings closer together, not in the superficial sphere of sensible affections or earthly interests, but in building up the pleroma (the fullness of God in Creation.).

The possibility, and even the obligation of doing everything for God are no longer based solely on the virtue of obedience, or solely on the moral value of intention; they can be explained, in short, only by the marvelous grace, instilled into every human effort, no matter how material, of effectively cooperating, through its physical result, in the fulfillment of the body of Christ.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in Christianity and Evolution

As I pray this rather heady passage from de Chardin, I reflect on these thoughts:

  • All Creation generates from God and returns to God in the fullness of Love.
  • Jesus Christ is the visible gift of that Love born into our human story.
  • By our faith in Jesus, and our choice to participate in his life, we become part of the ongoing perfection of Creation.
  • The Body of Christ, once present in the flesh in time, now sanctifies Creation through our lives, united in the Bread of Life.


No poetry today. Slowly read and re-read the passage from de Chardin. Find it’s message for you … perhaps just a word or a phrase:

  • the omni-influence of Christ
  • charity, …. that complete change of attitude so insistently taught by Christ
  • nothing in common with our colorless philanthropy
  • building up the fullness of God in Creation
  • the marvelous grace… of effectively cooperating … in the fulfillment of the Body of Christ

Music: Benedictus – Karl Jenkins

Memorial of Saint Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

May 2, 2022

For some info on Athanasius,
click the button below.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Acts introduces us to Stephen, so filled with the Holy Spirit that “his face was like the face of an angel”.

Acts6_8 Stephen

Stephen is among the first group of Christians designated as deacons “to serve at table” – in other words, to do the administrative tasks that kept the community whole.

However, Stephen’s gifts went well beyond these services. Acts describes him like this:

Stephen, filled with grace and power,
was working great wonders and signs among the people.


For today’s reflection, though, our focus will be John 6 which is the beginning of a week-long journey into the discourse on the Bread of Life (Jn 6:22-71). These passages, going from today until Friday, are like a “faith boot camp” for Jesus’s followers. They contain the core message of who Jesus is and how we are brought into communion with him.


John’s Gospel does not include an account of the Last Supper and institution of the Eucharist. The Bread of Life Discourse is where Jesus proclaims those teachings in John. It is a more detailed instruction and, as we pray with it over the course of the week, we may trace our own past and current awakening in faith.

painting
Limbourg Brothers, Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Jesus Feeding the 5,000 Source Wikimedia Commons

Today’s verses offer very basic training. Jesus has just fed 5000 people in the miracle of the loaves and fishes. The crowds, not having a global view of the miracle like we do, are confused. They know they got plenty to eat, but did everybody? They heard many people ate, but they saw only their nearby neighbors. What really happened out on the green field?

Finding Jesus the next day, they are ready for another meal. They’re more interested in matzoh than miracles. Their basic hunger for physical sustenance consumes them. Jesus begins the task of opening their hearts to their deeper hungers and his desire to meet them:

Jesus said,
“You are looking for me
not because you saw signs
but because you ate the loaves and were filled.
Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life.”

John 6: 26-27
Jn6_27 food

Praying with today’s Gospel, we might ask ourselves some basic questions about our own faith.

  • When we go looking for God, as these hungry people did, what is it that we are looking for?
  • Do we talk to God only when we need something the way these folks needed another loaf or fish?
  • Jesus is inviting us to Eucharist, to Communion with him. To what degree have we opened our hearts to that invitation by our reflective prayer and acts of mercy?

Jesus’s basic message to his flock today is this:

Don’t be satisfied by a tasty roll, a fat fish,
(or a fancy car, a good job, a comfortable life.)
God made you for much more than these things.
Come to Me and feed your deepest hunger.

Maybe, as we pray, we can ask the question posed at end of today’s Gospel and listen intently to Jesus’s answer:

So they said to him,
“What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”


Poetry: Bread of Life by Malcolm Guite

6: 35 Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. 
Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, 
and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Where to get bread? An ever-pressing question
That trembles on the lips of anxious mothers,
Bread for their families, bread for all these others;
A whole world on the margin of exhaustion.
And where that hunger has been satisfied
Where to get bread? The question still returns
In our abundance something starves and yearns
We crave fulfillment, crave and are denied.
And then comes One who speaks into our needs
Who opens out the secret hopes we cherish
Whose presence calls our hidden hearts to flourish
Whose words unfold in us like living seeds
Come to me, broken, hungry, incomplete,
I Am the Bread of Life, break Me and eat.

Music: Hungry – Kathryn Scott

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings capture the essence of life in God through Christ.

The first reading from Kings tells how Elijah, after eating the food God had provided him, was able to endure the long journey to God’s mountain. There, the sweetest whisper carried to Elijah the voice of God!


In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus makes clear that no one makes that journey into the heart of God unless God calls us. But Jesus says that the invitation is given to all who believe. He says that, just as with Elijah, the Father gives us food – Jesus himself – the bread of life.


The second reading from Ephesians says that we have already “been sealed for the day of redemption through the Holy Spirit.” Paul says that, given this amazing gift, we have only one job:

So be imitators of God, as beloved children,
and live in love,
as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us
as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.

We are so accustomed to hearing these astounding passages that we may miss how astounding they really are. But Macrina Wiederkehr says:

When Jesus’ words begin to sound naive
to our 21st century minds,
let us look through the words,
in between the words,
underneath for a deeper truth.

Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the great Jesuit mystical theologian, upon reading these passages, saw the mystery of the Body of Christ. He saw our call to be the heart of Christ in the world. He saw Christ’s promise to become one with us in Eucharist. He saw that, through this Infinite Love played out in our ordinary lives, God continues to redeem Creation.

In each soul,
God loves and partly saves
the whole world which that soul sums up
in an incommunicable and particular way.

The Divine Milieu

Poetry: Love after Love by Derek Walcott

The time will come when with elation
you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome
and say, sit here, eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self

Give wine, give bread.
Give back your heart to itself,
to the stranger who has loved you all your life
whom you ignored for another
who knows you by heart

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.


Music: Quintessence – Spencer Brewer

May this lovely instrumental piece help take us to a deeply prayerful place as we contemplate God’s gift in Jesus.

A Shocking Gift

Friday of the Third Week of Easter

May 1, 2020

Click here for readings

Dali
Institution of the Eucharist: Salvador Dali

Today, in Mercy, our Gospel is serious business. In it, Jesus reveals the lynchpin of our sacramental faith.

Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.

It is a stark and shocking statement. The listening Jews “quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?’.”

Down through the ages, struggling believers have grappled with the same question. Or, perhaps less preferable, complacent believers have never even considered it.

I think Jesus wanted us to consider it, absorb it, be changed by it, live within it, because “unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you.”


Among the Christian denominations there is a range of interpretations of this teaching. 

Wikipedia has a very good summary. Click to read it.


As Catholics, we believe that Christ is truly and fully present in Eucharist and that, by Communion, becomes fully present in us, the Church.

When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord’s death and resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and “the work of our redemption is carried out”. This sacrifice is so decisive for the salvation of the human race that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father only after he had left us a means of sharing in it as if we had been present there. Each member of the faithful can thus take part in it and inexhaustibly gain its fruits. This is the faith from which generations of Christians down the ages have lived.
(ECCLESIA DE EUCHARISTIA, Encyclical of John Paul II)


For me, it is a truth only appreciated when approached with more than the mind. It must be apprehended with the heart and soul. God so loves us in the person of Jesus Christ that God chooses to be eternally present with us, and in us, through the gift of Eucharist.

Praying with this truth over the years has led me to read authors like Edward Schillebeeckx (Christ the sacrament of the encounter with God), Diarmuid O’Murchu (Quantum Theology), and Pierre Teilhard De Chardin (Hymn of the Universe).

deChardin


But I will tell you that every time I receive the Eucharist, I let this little hymn play in my heart, one I learned for my First Holy Communion. It still unites my heart to my desired faith.

Music: Jesus, Jesus, Come to Me – sung by the Daughters of Mary
( I know the album art is not classic, but I can still believe I’m one of those little kids climbing into Jesus’s lap🤗. I think most of us are a mix of both unsophisticated and erudite theologies, so I hope you can enjoy this musical selection.)

Divine Inheritance

Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena, virgin and doctor of the Church

April 29, 2020

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our Gospel gives us the sense of Jesus claiming his inheritance  from the Father. He makes it clear that the Father’s Will is the Redemption of all Creation. This is the divine charge given to Jesus. This is his mission.

Jn6_37


Jesus continues to use the symbol of bread to teach the forming community. 

Bread sustains life.
God’s Word is eternal life.

Sharing bread is an act of community.
In the Body of Christ, we are made One with God
and with one another.

Bread can stale and disintegrate.
Within the Body of Christ, we become eternal
and will be raised up unto the Last Day.


These are such BIG thoughts, amazing teachings. I always wonder how simple shepherds, fishermen and housekeepers were supposed to understand! I wonder how we, in our human limitations, could begin to comprehend the infinitely loving design of God revealed in Jesus Christ!


Today, as we celebrate the feast of the great Saint Catherine of Siena, we can learn from her spiritual wisdom. Without formal education, she grew by grace into a Doctor of the Church.

Siena


She was born Catherine Benincasa on March 25, 1347, in Siena, Italy, and was a twin, the 24th child of 25. She only lived to the age of 33, dying of a stroke in Rome in 1380. Catherine of Siena, often referred to as “great Kate,” is well known for her expressive life of prayer shared in three major sources of writings: over 400 letters, 26 prayers, and The Dialogue of Divine Providence, which she referred to as “the book,” written in the format of a conversation between herself and God. She was noted for her style of learning, not acquired from formal education and degrees, but gained from an interior wisdom that came from lived experiences and a mystical life of prayer. ( https://www.hprweb.com/2020/02/the-trinitarian-theology-of-the-eucharist-according-to-st-catherine-of-siena/)


Here are two selections from Catherine’s extensive writings which reveal her ever-deepening relationship with God through the gift of the Bread of Life.


Eternal God, Eternal Trinity, You have made the Blood of Christ so precious through His sharing in your Divine Nature. You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for You. But I can never be satisfied; what I receive will ever leave me desiring more. When You fill my soul I have an ever-greater hunger, and I grow more famished for Your Light. I desire above all to see You, the true Light, as you really are.


St. Catherine of Siena, Prayer 12, V 124–157

And by the light of most holy faith
I shall contemplate myself in you.
And I shall clothe myself in your eternal will,
And by this light I shall come to know
That you, eternal Trinity,
Are table
And food
And waiter for us.

You, eternal Father,
Are the table
That offers us as food
The Lamb, your only-begotten Son.

He is the most exquisite of foods for us,
Both in his teaching,
Which nourishes us in your will,
And in the sacrament
That we receive in Holy Communion,
Which feeds and strengthens us
While we are pilgrim travelers in this life.

And the Holy Spirit
Is indeed a waiter for us,
For he serves us this teaching
By enlightening our mind’s eye with it
And inspiring us to follow it.
And he serves us charity for our neighbors
And hunger to have as food
Souls
And the salvation of the whole world
For the Father’s honor

So we see that souls enlightened in you,
True light,
Never let a moment pass
Without eating this exquisite food
For your honor.

Music:  Ave Verum Corpus – words attributed to 14th century Pope Innocent VI, melody to Mozart, sung by King’s College Choir

Hail, true body
Ave, ave verum Corpus 

Born of the Virgin Mary;
Natum de Maria Virgine

Truly offered,
Vere passum, immolatum 

In the cross for man
In cruce pro homine

Whose side
Cujus latus perforatum 

Water and blood
Fluxit aqua et sanguine

May we taste
Esto nobis praegustatum 

Time of death
Mortis in examine 

The time of death
In mortis examine

Life is the Miracle

Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter

April 28, 2020

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, Acts recounts the sad but inspiring story of Stephen’s martyrdom.

To read an earlier reflection on St. Stephen’s death, click here.


In our Gospel, we continue to pray with John’s Discourse on the Bread of Life.

The setting is Capernaum, on the other side of the lake from where the feeding of the 5000 occurred. Rumors are flying about how Jesus got from one side to the other without a boat. In other words, the air is buzzing with whispers of miracles.


Some bright light in the re-gathering crowd decides to become their representative and inquisitor of Jesus:

inquisitors

“What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?
Our ancestors ate manna in the desert … ”
(how about something a long those lines, the questioner seems to imply????)

Where was this guy when the loaves and fishes were pouring out of a single basket? Where was he when Jesus appeared at the lake’s far side, already rested and waiting for the exhausted, arriving crowd?


But Jesus doesn’t take the inquisitor’s bait. He speaks as the Divine Teacher to help them understand that this is about a lot more than signs and miracles. 

Jesus reminds them that any “miracle”, any “manna” should lead us to God, in whose Presence the need and demand for continuing miracles ceases.

Jn6_35 bread

Jesus encourages them to get beyond their limited perceptions of signs, manna, bread, and miracles. He explains that all the Power of God stands before them in him, the Son, the Bread sent “down from heaven, and giving life to the world.”

It’s a lot to take in. But they want to: “Sir, give us this bread always.”


It’s a lot for us to take in too, don’t you think. I know I wouldn’t mind a regular old miracle now and then… a shower of manna or a cure for Covid19!

But instead Jesus asks us to live within the miracle of God’s Presence in all things, in the bread of our ordinary lives which He transforms by love.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Stephen had this kind of radical faith. “Filled with the Holy Spirit”,  he could – even in the throes of human contradiction – “see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

May our faith ever deepen that we too see God in the Bread of our ordinary daily lives. May that faith inspire us to act always with love, hope and mercy.

Music:  I Am the Bread, the Bread of Life – Brian Hoare 

The Unfathomable Gift

Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter 

May 7, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, the crowd demands a sign from Jesus “that they may believe” in him. They refer to their ancestral memory of when God sent manna to their forebears in the desert – a miracle that restored their faith.

bread of life

But although Jesus worked many wonders, he was not sent simply to be a “wonder worker”. The faith of the New Creation was not to be built on miracles but on sacrificial love.

Jesus tells the assembled crowd:

“ My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven

and gives life to the world.”

He is talking about himself, the ultimate gift of God, feeding not just the body but the spirit – giving new life to all Creation.

The sacrament of the Eucharist embraces this mystery and extends it through the ages. Embodied in the Sacred Bread, this mystery is also incarnated in the People of God as they believe, hope and love God’s Presence into the world.

As with all sacred mysteries, we cannot simply choose to believe as a rational act. This faith is not willed by us, but rather gifted to us, as Jesus says:

“ You cannot come to Me
unless the Father draw you.”

The crowd gathered around Jesus in today’s Gospel is asking  him for a sign before they will believe. Let us instead ask God for the grace  to open our hearts undemandingly to the deep gift of faith God wishes to give us.

Music: Bread of Heaven – Jessie Manibusan  (Lyrics below)

Bread of heaven, Savior broken,
cup of life outpoured;
we your people thirst and hunger.
Come renew us, Lord;
come renew us, Lord.

From the mountain, blessing spoken
where we came to pray;
with the simple truth before us:
love them in my name;
love them in my name.

From the garden dark with sorrow,
from the tears you wept,
bloomed the flower of salvation:
new life born of death,
new life born of death.

From the hill where love was lifted
on the heavy wood,
flow the blood and streams of mercy
where your Mother stood,
where your Mother stood.

From the tomb that could not hold you
in the dark of night,
broke that morning of redemption,
raising us to life,
raising us to life.

I’m Hungry!!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/080518.cfm

“Don’t we have anything decent to eat around here?” “There’s nothing to eat in this house !”  

How many times do parents hear these complaints from their growing teenagers! The problem? They’re not looking for the apples, or eggs, or yogurt, or avocados which actually are in the fridge. They’re looking for junk!

Bread of Life

Today’s first reading reflects a similar situation with the Jews in the desert. They are hungry, but not for the spiritual food Yahweh is offering them. They complain continuously. So God relents, feeding them manna and quail. But God is clear. He says, “I have done this so that you may know I am the Lord, your God.”

In the Gospel, Jesus admonishes his listeners, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life.” Jesus doesn’t mean we should stop eating. He knows that we need food and other things in order to live. What He wants us to understand is that these things have only secondary importance to the food for our soul, a sustenance which we often relegate to inferior status, to “when we have time”.

In his advice to the Ephesians, Paul says that to live without spiritual awareness is “to live in the futility of our minds”. It’s a powerful phrase, generating an image of us running around in our heads after all sorts of vain worries and goals — junk.

At our essence, we are hungry for the Bread of Life. Nothing else will fill that emptiness.

Music: Bread of Life ~ Bernadette Farrell 

Bread of life, hope of the world,
Jesus Christ, our brother:
feed us now, give us life,
lead us to one another.

As we proclaim your death,
as we recall your life,
we remember your promise
to return again.

Bread of life, hope of the world,
Jesus Christ, our brother:
feed us now, give us life,
lead us to one another.

The bread we break and share
was scattered once as grain:
just as now it is gathered,
make your people one.

Bread of life, hope of the world,
Jesus Christ, our brother:
feed us now, give us life,
lead us to one another.

We eat this living bread,
we drink this saving cup:
sign of hope in our broken world,
source of lasting love.

Hold us in unity,
in love for all to see;
that the world may believe in you,
God of all who live.

You are the bread of peace,
you are the wine of joy,
broken now for your people,
poured in endless love.