Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time| Year B
The Jews were complaining to each other about Jesus, because he had said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ ‘Surely this is Jesus son of Joseph’ they said. ‘We know his father and mother. How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus said in reply, ‘Stop complaining to each other.
‘No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me,
and I will raise him up at the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
they will all be taught by God, and to hear the teaching of the Father,
and learn from it, is to come to me.
Not that anybody has seen the Father,
except the one who comes from God: he has seen the Father.
I tell you most solemnly, everybody who believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate manna in the desert
and they are dead; But this is the bread that comes down from heaven,
so that a man may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.’
In the writings of many of the saints there is evidence of the drawing power of the Eucharist. They yearned for it as spiritual food, nourishment, union with Jesus. St Cyril of Alexander compared the Eucharist to “two pieces of wax fused together to make one” because when we receive Holy Communion we are in Christ and he is in us.
In our own time, Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan of Vietnam who died in 2002 and whose beatification process is under way, wrote of what the Eucharist meant to him during the many years he spent in prison:
"Were you able to say Mass in prison?" is a question I have been asked many, many times. And when I say "Yes", I can foretell the next question, "How did you get the bread and wine?"
I was taken to prison empty-handed. Later on, I was allowed to request the strict necessities like clothing, toothpaste etc. I wrote home saying “send me some wine as medication for stomach pains.” On the outside, the faithful understood what I meant.
They sent me a little bottle of Mass wine, with a label reading “medication for stomach pains”, as well as some hosts broken into small pieces.
The police asked me: “Do you have pains in your stomach?” “Yes”. “Here is some medicine for you!”
I will never be able to express the joy that was mine: each day, with three drops of wine, a drop of water in the palm of my hand, I celebrated my Mass.
The six Catholics in my group of 50 prisoners tried to stay together. We lined up the boards we were given as beds; they were about 20 inches wide. We slept close together in order to be able to pray during the night.
At 9.30 every evening when lights out rang everyone had to be lying down. I bent over my wooden board and celebrated Mass, by heart of course, and distributed Communion to my neighbours under their mosquito nets. We made tiny bags from cigarette paper to protect the Blessed Sacrament.
At night, the prisoners took turns and spent time in adoration. The Blessed Sacrament helped tremendously. Even Buddhists and other non-Christians were converted. The strength of the love of Jesus is irresistible. The darkness of the prison turned into light, the seed germinated silently in the storm.”
If we do not experience this same deep yearning for the bread of life, why not? Do we have too much to distract us? Do we understand its value and its power to form us? would bread and wine be the first thing we sought if we were imprisoned?