20th Sunday in Ordinary Time| Year B
Jesus said to the crowd:
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.
Then the Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said. Jesus replied:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man
and drink his blood
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood
has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live forever.’
It is an act of faith to receive the Eucharist. Only faith could draw people to a repetitive ceremony in which it is claimed that bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of a man who lived 2000 years ago.
Receiving the Eucharist can be an experience in which the sense of closeness to Jesus is very real. It can be an experience in which there are no words, just deep prayer. It can be a heavenly experience.
Receiving the Eucharist can also be an experience of nothing, taking bread and wine, being aware of their taste and texture, and little else. It can all seem absurd, a fiction in which flesh and blood becoming bread and wine is ridiculous, and there is no sense of closeness to Christ or inclination to pray.
This situation may have developed if going to Sunday Mass is the only “spiritual” event or activity of the week. Other things crowd the mind and heart, even during the Mass (or perhaps especially during the Mass). A lazy spiritual life or even sin might be the reason receiving communion has little impact. It may be the beginning of a slide away from faith and belief. Only our conscience examined with honesty can tell us if this is the case.
Communion which provides no sense of the presence of Christ can also be an action of God. If we only prayed or received communion because of the emotions and feelings it produced, then we would not be looking for union with Christ but for feelings we enjoy. So at a certain point those consolations may disappear, and it is faith which must motivate us to continue receiving the body and blood of Christ.
Faithfulness to prayer, to attendance at Mass, working honestly to keep sin out of our lives, if these actions are present they are indicators that God has brought us into a time of faith without felt reward. Every prayer we say and every time we receive communion we are making an act of faith and growing into a purer and less self-centred faith.
“In the Eucharist, the Son of God comes to meet us and desires to become one with us” (Pope Benedict XVI). This is exactly what happens whether we “feel” it or not.