Eucharist, Bread of eternal life
June 2, 2002

Al Cariño
Reproduced with Permission

A story is told of St. John Vianney, Patron Saint of diocesan priests, that while elevating and carrying the consecrated Host during Mass, he reflected and then exclaimed in amazement: "I carry Him to the right, He remains on the right; I carry Him to the left, He remains on the left." His awe at the humility and kindness of God in allowing Himself to be dependent on His own creature led him to utter: "I said to God: 'If I knew I was never to have you in heaven, I would never let you go now that I have the happiness to hold you in my hands.'"

We recall this incident in the life of St. John Vianney because today we are celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi, of the Body of Christ.

In the gospel reading (Jn. 6: 51-58), we see Jesus explaining the significance of the multiplication of five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish -- the lunch of a small boy -- to feed 5,000 people. As he did so, He made reference to the feeding of the Chosen People with manna in the desert after their liberation from the slavery of Egypt (Dt. 8: 2-3, 14-16) -- a historical event familiar to every Jew. He added that though their forefathers ate manna, they nevertheless died. Now He was giving His flesh to eat and His blood to drink so that they would eternal life: "This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever" (Jn. 6:58).

What have we done to deserve this wonderful gift? Nothing. It is purely out of God's goodness and His desire to reside in our hearts to be our life that He gave us this gift. We can only thank Him for it.

Since we actually receive and eat Jesus Himself in Communion, to what extent do we prepare ourselves in receiving Him? We ask this question because we may take this act often done out of habit for granted. This should not be. Rather, every time we receive Jesus in Communion, we should be as prepared as possible, that is, as clean as possible not only in body but also and especially in spirit.

After we have received Jesus, is everything we think, do, or say guided by His presence in us? Do we talk to Him now and then? He is our Friend after all and are not friends supposed to communicate with each other? Does our conversation with Jesus lead to a change in us so that we become the kind of persons He wants us to be? Is this change in us reflected at home, in school, in the work place, in our community?

One final but very important point. Receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus is not just a Christ-and-me relationship. It also builds up and gives life to the Christian community into which we were initiated at our baptism.

Along this line, I recall reading an article written by Fr. Ruben Villote of Manila on the multiplication of the loaves. He said that he did not believe that the people who followed Jesus did not have food with them. But they were holding on to it since others might take it away or want a part of it, too. Except for a little boy. He brought out his baon (lunch) and gave it to the apostles. Jesus took it, offered thanks, broke it into small pieces and shared it with those around Him. And that was what the other people did, too -- they took out and shared with others the food they brought. Everyone had their fill. What really happened was that the people opened their hearts and their hands -- and they experienced a miracle! The miracle was in the multiplication of people who had opened their hearts and hands!

When a person or an organization comes into existence, we say that it is born. And just as a baby needs nourishment, so does an organization. The is also true of the Christian community. What nourishes it is the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Love and Unity. It is for this reason that the community of Christians -- people from all walks of life but sharing a common belief in Jesus -- gathers together on Sunday. It does so not only to celebrate the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus, but also to be nourished by His Body and Blood in order to be able to give a united witness on the Lord of Life in this unbelieving world.

For this to become a reality, after partaking regularly of the Body of Jesus, we are to be a little less selfish and instead become more generous specially for those in need among us -- as the people in our story did when they shared the food they brought with one another. Then we can be what St. Paul wants when he said, "Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf" (1Cor. 10: 16-17).

In today's Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus, may we become a community of faith with open hearts and hands for those in need among us. Then we will be putting into action our own Eucharistic existence as an individual and as a community.