19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

“Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”  In our First Reading this morning, we hear about how the Prophet Elijah was miraculously fed by God in the wilderness.  Elijah was fleeing for his life from the Queen, who wanted to have him put to death as she had had done to all the other Prophets of that day.  Elijah felt completely overwhelmed.  Every single one of his fellow Prophets had been put to death.  The mission, on which God had sent him, seemed to have failed and now his own life was in jeopardy.  Elijah, completely discouraged, sat down and prayed for death.  “This is enough, O Lord!”

Twice God provided a jug of water and a hearth cake.  This miraculously provided food gave Elijah the strength that he needed to get up and continue his journey.  After receiving the food that God provided, he travelled through the desert and came to the mountain of God and there, he encountered the Lord.

This bread by which the Lord strengthens Elijah for his journey prefigures the True Bread from Heaven, which we hear about in today’s Gospel.  Jesus says that He is the “Bread of Life”, the “living bread,” the bread that once eaten, will give life that will last forever.  Jesus then tells us that the bread that He gives is His own flesh, which is given “for the life of the world.”

When Jesus speaks of giving His flesh for the life of the world, He is predicting two things.  First, He is referring to His own death on the Cross.  He knows that He is going to undergo a most cruel death, in fact it was precisely to die in atonement for our sins that He became man in the first place; He willingly laid down His life to save us from sin and death.  The second thing that Jesus is referring to when He speaks of giving His flesh for the life of the world is the gift that He gives to us in the Holy Eucharist.

In Holy Communion, Jesus Christ gives Himself completely to us: body, blood, soul, and divinity.  He holds nothing back.  He loves us so much that He willingly left behind the glory of Heaven and became a man; He died for us and gives Himself to us as food that He might be united to us.

There are many ways in which the Lord is present to us.  It is true that Jesus is God, and as God is present everywhere.  We also know that Jesus said that wherever two or three are gathered in His name, He is present in their midst.  Our Faith teaches us that the Lord is present when the Scriptures are proclaimed at Mass.  It is Jesus Christ, Himself, Who acts through the priest to effect the Sacraments: the priest not only represents Christ but acts in the very Person of Christ: in Persona Christi whenever he celebrates the Sacraments.

All of these ways in which Jesus is present to us, are real and true; and yet the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is greater than all of them.  In the Holy Eucharist, Jesus is really, wholly, substantially Present.  It is not a representation, or some kind of a simile or metaphor.  The Eucharist is not a mere symbol or just a sign.  The Eucharist IS Jesus Christ: the One Who has been with the Father, from the beginning of time; the One through Whom and for Whom all things were made; the One Who became a man, died, rose from the dead and reigns triumphantly in Heaven, the very same One comes down to our altar at the words of the priest; so that He can be united to you.

Whenever you receive Holy Communion you are united, in a most intimate manner, to the all-holy, all-powerful God: Who IS love.  That is why we should never receive Holy Communion when in a state of mortal sin.  If we have committed venial sins we are cleansed of them by our reception of Holy Communion.  When we attend Mass, we participate in the Sacrifice that Jesus made of Himself to the Father on Calvary.  When we receive Communion worthily, the merits that Jesus won on the Cross are applied to our souls.  Receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist strengthens us for our journey through this valley of tears: when we receive Jesus, He pours His grace into our souls for when we receive Communion, we receive the Author of all grace.  We may not always be aware of how God is working in our souls; the Lord usually works in a quiet way.  We can be sure, however, that the Lord is working on our hearts.  Holy Communion increases grace in our souls: grace is our share in the very life of God.

After you receive Communion, spend time with the Lord.  Thank Him for giving Himself to you; ask Him for whatever you need: whether the needs are material or spiritual.  Pray for those whom you know are in need of prayer.  Ask Jesus to transform your heart; pray for the grace to overcome whatever it is you most struggle against.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, as Elijah was in the First Reading, bring your troubles, anxieties, fears, and frustrations to Jesus in the Eucharist.  Jesus gives Himself to us as food so that we can receive from Him the strength that we need on our journey.

God wants us to bring all that is on our hearts to Him.  We should also not forget to thank Him for all that He has given to us and all that He has done for us.  Open your hearts to Him and allow Him to work in you.  Jesus wants to draw you closer to Himself; He wants to free you from sin.  He desires that each and every one of us become a Saint.  If we pray for His grace, surely He will grant it.  If we are not Saints, it is our own fault.  What area of our lives do we refuse to turn over to the Lord?  What sin am I just too attached to?  I challenge you to examine your lives this upcoming week.  Ask yourselves those questions; then pray for the grace to surrender more fully to God.  It is only when we give our hearts completely to Him, that we will ever be able to find the true joy and lasting happiness that we all seek.

Lord Jesus, help us to give our hearts completely to you, as You give Yourself completely to us in the Holy Eucharist.  Amen.

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