In John’s gospel, Jesus tells us, “Do not to work for the food of this world that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” I am a parent who works in cooperation with my husband to provide the essentials for our children – one of those necessities being food for our table. It is hard to put aside the idea of working for things of this world – especially the things that our kids truly need to survive and to thrive. I suppose that Jesus is saying two things here – First: that we should keep our eyes fixed on heaven. We must make heaven – communion with God – a priority above all others – for it is the only one that will last.
I have a very spiritual friend who confided in me that she has been praying for detachment in her life. I think that is such a wise grace for which to pray. I know that I am attached to people in my life. In all honesty, however, I don’t think that I would be terribly upset about losing my “stuff” should my house burn down, or be blown away. I do reflect upon this every time we have a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. The only things that I would miss would be pictures – those cherished “memory joggers” that remind me of good times spent with family.
The second thing that I think Jesus was referring to in this passage was the Eucharist – the “food that endures for eternal life which the Son of Man will give you.” I don’t ever want to have to live without this most precious gift – the gift of Christ’s body inside of my own. I realize that many people in other countries have to wait for a priest to visit their area to be able to receive Holy Communion. Here in Louisiana, we are so blessed to have so many Catholic churches and masses to attend. It pains me to hear people say that Holy Communion is just a symbol or that it doesn’t make them feel any differently.
I admit that when I was younger (and even sometimes now when I’m feeling very distracted), I didn’t FEEL anything special when I went to Communion. It is important to note here the reason the we attend mass on Sunday. We go to worship God, because we owe everything we have and all that we are to Him. We go to keep His commandments. If we have a particularly fulfilling experience – if it makes us feel good – then that is a gift from God Himself. Personally, my experience has been that the more I give of myself to Jesus – mentally and spiritually – in the mass, the more I seem to get out of it.
Preparation is key – Make a good confession if necessary. If you have mortal sin on your soul, you should not receive the Eucharist. (1 Corinthians 11: 27 – 29 “So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.”)
Prepare for mass, if possible, by reading the readings ahead of time. Arrive a few minutes early so that you have time to pray. Bow your head and CLOSE YOUR EYES. This, my momma taught me, is so helpful to personal prayer. Closing your eyes, and even covering them with you hands, can help you to picture Our Lord Jesus in your mind’s eye. It also keeps out distractions. (I know that if my eyes are open, my naturally curious nature wants to check out what everyone is wearing, or how the ladies have their hair fixed!)
Offer up your mass for a special intention – it is the most powerful prayer we have on this earth! Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you focused during mass. Ask the Blessed Mother to help you to love her Son completely, and to have great respect for Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament. Close your eyes during the Eucharistic prayers. Listen for the bells – this signals just when the miracle of transubstantiation is happening. A MIRACLE! Pray the Our Father with all your heart. Try not to get too distracted or unfocused during the sign of peace. Keep it low-key.
After receiving Communion, bow your head, close your eyes and focus on the miracle of having Jesus inside of you. This is what I like to do when I pray after receiving the Eucharist: I like to thank Him, praise Him, and beg Him to wash away all that is unclean within me. I picture the soldiers handing Jesus to me from off of the cross. I hold His bruised and battered head. I wipe his wounds with my hand and tears. I rock Him gently. I tell Him how sorry I am that my sins put Him there on that cross. I tell Him how much I love Him.
The Eucharist is the “Sacrament of Love.” (St. Thomas) It also can bestow upon us unfathomable graces. In order to receive these graces however, we have to be open to receive those graces and be prepared to receive them.
In the second reading, Paul tells us to ” put away the old self of your former way of life…put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.”
Transformed by the graces of Jesus in the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist, let us step out into the new week renewed, focused on the things of heaven, and ready to share the love of Christ with everyone we meet!