Do you ever identify with the people you encounter in Sacred Scripture? Following some of the recent events in the news, I’ve been feeling like Elijah in today’s first reading: the accusations of sexual abuse within 6 diocese in Pennsylvania and similar accusations against a prominent Cardinal in the Catholic Church; The suicides of celebrities who appeared to have had it all; the more than 160 drug overdoses in one weekend in Philadelphia. For anyone whose life has been touched by scandal, suicide, substance abuse, the news of such events can bring back horrific memories that reopen old wounds. If your life hasn’t been directly affected by one of these or similar hardships you most certainly know someone whose life as been. At some point in our lives all of us have moments when we identify with Elijah and cry out…”Enough, O LORD! Enough!” We might come to Mass looking for strength to remain hopeful in the midst of suffering amongst our friends, our family or maybe even ourselves. The answer that the Church gives us and highlights over five Sundays during this period of Ordinary Time….the Eucharist.
Now don’t misunderstand me. The Eucharist is not magic. Receiving Holy Communion won’t magically make our problems disappear. If it did, could you imagine the crowds that we’d have coming to Mass? You’d have to come hours ahead of time to get into the church! The Eucharist comes down from heaven to strengthen us on our earthly journey. And it lifts us back up so that we might participate in God’s divine life. In the words of the 2nd Vatican Council, “The Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian life.” The Eucharist gives us hope and sustenance, especially in troubled times.
The Eucharist is said to be the source of Christian life because before we cried out to God, even before the events that led to our cries, God, in His infinite love gave us the Eucharist as THE remedy to sustain us and strengthen us on our pilgrimage back to Him. The Eucharist is “Bread for the journey”: greater than the hearth cake that the angel brought down from heaven which strengthened Elijah on his journey to the mountain of God; greater than the manna in the desert that God rained down from heaven which sustained the Israelites on their journey to the Promised Land; greater than the 5 loaves and 2 fish with which Jesus fed 5,000 men and women; greater than any other gift from God, for the Eucharist is God Himself in the person of Jesus. In times of despair and hopelessness, God is with us and accompanies us on our earthly pilgrimage in the Eucharist.
The Eucharist is also said to be the summit of Christian life for it lifts us up to God through the most perfect prayer…the Sacrifice of the Mass. In the Mass we are able to offer up to God all of our imperfections and all of our sufferings in union with Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. When the gifts of bread and wine are brought forward we can offer up our own personal sufferings. By uniting ourselves with Christ we, the Bod of Christ, become a “sacrament” for the rest of humanity or a sign and instrument of the salvation achieved by Jesus, the Bread of Life. Offered up with Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, our trails and sufferings give true meaning and purpose to our lives, no matter how broken our lives may be.
As we move into the Liturgy of the Eucharist the words of today’s psalmist come to mind, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord!” With great anticipation for the mystery that is about to take place, we cry out, “Enough, O LORD! Enough! Silence this preacher already! Send down your angels to this altar with the living bread from heaven so that we may eat, be strengthened on our journey in the midst of our suffering, and one day live in perfect communion with the Trinity!”
The Eucharist…source and summit of our Christian lives.