It is certainly not a pleasant sight to see photos of starving children in Africa. There are millions of them. Some have bloated stomachs. Some are extremely skinny. It is especially sad to see some of these children have flies crawling on them. They need food to satisfy their hunger. Deep in their mind, they cry out in desperation, “Give us food!”
While many people are suffering from physical starvation, there are more people suffering from another kind of starvation – spiritual starvation. People who are suffering from spiritual starvation have bloated minds. These patients have empty and meaningless lives. To satisfy their spiritual starvation and ungodly desires, some of them have fallen in love with absurd philosophies. Some of them have resorted to lust, drugs, gambling, etc. to satisfy their spiritual desires. Unfortunately, these are poison rather than spiritual food. If our human souls were visible, the souls of the patients of spiritual starvation would look more unpleasant than anything we can imagine.
People with a reasonable amount of common sense know we should consume healthy food to maintain a healthy body. Likewise, we should consume healthy spiritual food to maintain our spiritual health.
One day Jesus told his startled audience that He himself was the healthy spiritual food we all need. “Let me firmly assure you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate manna in the desert, but they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven for a man to eat and never die. I myself am the living bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread he shall live forever; the bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” (John 6: 47 – 51)
Many people like to keep a photo of their loved ones in their wallets. Some may keep a family photo on a desk in their office. Jesus loves us so much that He does not want to give us a keepsake only. He wants to give us Himself. He becomes the spiritual food that we all need. This is nothing less than a real union.
The Church teaches us that all the effects that bodily food and drink can do to our health such as sustenance, renewal; the Holy Eucharist can do the same for our soul. ‘What material food produces in our bodily life, Holy Communion wonderfully achieves in our spiritual life. Communion with the flesh of the risen Christ, a flesh “given life and giving life through the Holy Spirit,” preserves, increases and renews the life of grace received at Baptism. This growth in Christian life needs the nourishment of Eucharistic Communion, the bread for our pilgrimage until the moment of death, when it will be given to us as viaticum.’ (#1392 Catechism of the Catholic Church)
The Holy Eucharist, if received worthily, separates us from sin. (#1393 Catechism of the Catholic Church) It also gives us strength to overcome challenges of all kinds that we face every day. It gives strength to married people to tolerate their nagging spouses. It gives strength to young people who refuse to follow the modern trend of materialism and atheism. It gives strength to the unemployed, to the widowed, to the confused, to the patients with chronic diseases, to the priests and nuns who have lived up to their commitments, to the lonely, to the downtrodden. The list is endless.
Above all, the Holy Eucharist gives us the grace to follow the Lord’s commandments of love and forgiveness. It gives us the strength to forgive and serve those who have offended us, just like our Lord Jesus who wanted to wash Judas’ feet on the night He was betrayed. If received properly and worthily, the Holy Eucharist empowers us to become saints because the Holy Communion is a real holy communion – union with Christ.
In order to receive the Holy Eucharist worthily, we need some proper preparation. The essential elements of the preparation are not fasting for an hour before receiving it, not singing the hymns in one accord with the choir, not responding with a clearly audible Amen, but something interior in our mind – putting on the mind of Christ, having the kind of attitude He had when he was being nailed on the Cross, sacrificial love, and sheer obedience to the Father.
The celebration of Eucharist is not just a memorial banquet of the Last Supper. “This is my body which will be given up for you. This is my blood which will be shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” The Holy Eucharist is sacrificial food. The Holy Eucharist that we receive is the same body of our Lord Jesus whose body was handed over to the executioners and nailed on the Cross. The Holy Blood that we receive is the same blood bleeding from the body of Jesus in Calvary. St. Pio said, “Renew your faith by attending Holy Mass. Keep your mind focused on the mystery that is unfolding before your eyes. In your mind’s eye transport yourself to Calvary and meditate on the Victim who offers Himself to Divine Justice, paying the price of your redemption.” Archbishop Fulton Sheen said something similar, “We shall find Calvary renewed, re-enacted, represented, as we have seen, in the Mass. Calvary is one with the Mass, and the Mass is one with Calvary, for in both there is the same Priest and Victim.”
The Eucharist is a sacrament of love. It is also a sacrament of hope. The body that we receive is not only the body of the Lord who died on the Cross but also the body of the risen Lord who has promised us that “He who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has life eternal, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6: 54)
Resurrected on the third day after His death, the victorious Lord proved to us that He has the ability to conquer death and therefore has the ability to keep His promise to raise us up on the last day. At that time there will be perfect and holy union, body and soul, with the Lord. There will be no more physical or spiritual starvation because ‘He shall wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, for the former world has passed away.’ (Revelation 21: 4)