Bread for a Day, Bread for Eternity

– Thursday of the 3rd Week of Easter –

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live for ever” [John 6:51]

It seems almost too obvious to have to say it, but humanity is dependent on food and water for survival. We cannot sustain life for longer than a few days without water, and maybe five weeks without food. We need sustenance. In ‘first world’ countries, we rarely contemplate just how much we are dependent on food and water because we have such an abundance. But the reality is that our physical bodies are entirely dependent on food and water. Without it, we cannot live. Understanding this reality can help us to understand something of what Jesus is saying to us in today’s gospel. We are of course more than our physical bodies – our bodies are animated by a spiritual soul. To quote the Catechism, “the unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the ‘form’ of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body” (CCC 365).

Because we’re more than our bodies, we need more than just food and water for life. Jesus, who is the living bread, provides for us the sustenance that the whole person needs. He is the bread that brings life to the soul. This is the mystery of the Eucharist – that at every Mass we partake of the bread and wine which has become Christ’s body and blood. At every Mass we receive the bread that will lead to eternal life. 

This also helps us to understand why they Church asks Catholics to attend Mass at least every weekend. Just as when we go without food and water for a long time, our bodies begin to weaken and malfunction, so, when we do not partake of the bread of life received in the Eucharist, our lives can begin to weaken and malfunction. Partaking of the Eucharist is the bread of eternal life, and this is why we recognise the Eucharist as the source and summit of the Christian life. “Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

by Dcn Peter Pellicaan

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