Sunday after Sunday, perhaps even daily, we receive the Holy Eucharist, the source and summit of our Catholic faith. Have we ever considered the question the Jews were quarreling about in today’s Gospel, namely, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Have we challenged ourselves to “advance in the way of understanding”? Today’s readings give us an opportunity to grow in knowledge of our faith.
We can begin with a reflection on why Jesus gives us himself in the Eucharist. In his infinitely abundant love for each one of us, he desires for us to be in communion with himself. He wants to transform our lives “into a gift to God and to our brothers and sisters,” as Pope Francis tells us in this week’s Spiritual Reflection (pp. 219-220). The Eucharist, he says, “is not a private prayer or a beautiful spiritual exercise, it is not a simple commemoration of what Jesus did at the Last Supper.” Rather it is “‘a remembrance,’ that is, a gesture which renders real and present the event of Jesus’ death and resurrection.” By receiving the Eucharist with faith, we can advance in the way of understanding, and thereby “understand what is the will of the Lord.” The Lord wants us to be people of love as he is Love. The more we open ourselves to receive him, the more we are filled with this love – and this is not simply for our advantage, but also to be shared with those whom God places in our midst.
Whenever we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, we can return with gratitude and wonder to our question: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Not “How can he do it?”, but “How can he be so generous, so selfless, so merciful?” It is not a question to satisfy our curiosity but to feed our souls, a beautiful mystery to ponder in the sacred silence after Communion or while we are at Adoration.
The first reading reminds us of our responsibility to seek wisdom from God. Wisdom, personified in the reading as a noble and generous woman, is eager to “feed” us, saying: “Come, eat of my food, and drink the wine I have mixed!” These references also bring to mind the Eucharist, the greatest food and drink and the richest source of wisdom. Lady Wisdom continues: “Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.” When we are fed with wisdom, with truth, with divine light, we no longer seek satisfaction from the world. We can see the foolishness behind the desires of our nature, which is so easily distracted by the goods of this passing world.
St. Paul, a wise man in the ways of the Spirit, reaffirms us in the path of wisdom in today’s second reading. His counsel is both profound and practical: “Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.” Paul does not mention the Holy Eucharist directly, but he contrasts the foolishness of getting “drunk on wine” with the wisdom of being “filled with the Spirit.” Filled with the Spirit who is Love, we can love our neighbor, have joy in our hearts, and give thanks “always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.”
The idea of “giving thanks always and for everything” brings us once more to the Eucharist, the very name of which means “thanksgiving.” Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” To remain in Jesus is to remain in Love, Wisdom and Mercy and to have this same Love, Wisdom and Mercy remain in our hearts. Anything outside of this is foolishness! Nothing can compare with union with God! As we remain in him, and he in us, we have all we need to fulfill his holy will.
Do I believe that Jesus wants to become one with me? How can I seek daily wisdom from God? Am I grateful to the Lord for his gift of the Eucharist?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 14, no. 6. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.