Dear Brothers and Sisters:
For this week and for the next two Sundays I would like to present a series on the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The majority of Catholics today think that Christ is only symbolically present in the Eucharist and in the church. His presence Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity is a very fundamental belief of our faith, and affects the way we live.
This week in the first reading from the first Book of Kings (Ch. 19) we see that Elijah as he is about to give up his life after being pursued by Queen Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab. Elijah had just killed the four hundred false prophets who were leading people to worship Baal. He had asked the false prophets to call on their god and to make an offering of a bull, which would be consumed with fire, and Elijah would do the same. They called Baal all morning and nothing happened. Elijah encouraged them to call more loudly in case he was asleep or busy, but to no avail.
Elijah then set up his altar, slaughtered his bull and doused it with an abundance of water three times. Then he called on the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob and asked him to let the people know of his strength. ‘Answer me, Yahweh, answer me,’ he cried out. Then Yahweh’s fire fell and consumed the bull and the wood, and licked up the water in the trench. When the people saw this they fell down and said, ‘Yahweh is God, Yahweh is God!’ And then the people seized the false prophets and killed them.
When Queen Jezebel heard this she swore that by this time tomorrow Elijah would suffer the same fate as her prophets. And this is where we pick up his story in the first reading today. Elijah went into the desert for a day’s journey and sitting under a tree he wished he was dead, and soon fell asleep. An angel awakens him and says, ‘Get up and eat.’ When he awoke at his head was a scone recently baked and a jar of water. He ate and drank and went back to sleep. The angel awakened him again and said, ‘Get up and eat or the journey will be too long for you.’ He got up ate and drank and strengthened by the food he walked for forty days and forty nights to mount Horeb where Moses received the Commandments and spoke with God.
At times haven’t you felt ready to give up, to throw in the towel, that the situation in front of you is too much? ‘I cannot go on,’ Elijah says, and we agree. ‘Take and eat,’ God says to us. We need food for the journey, for the week, or we will die. He is speaking of spiritual food, heavenly nutrition, not a granola bar.
When my mom virtually stopped eating for a week in January it has taken her months to recover her strength. How many of us have stopped feeding our soul spiritually or at a level where we do not have strength to answer the difficulties of the day. Most of the crises that we face as a nation, or globally, are due, in large part, because people have stopped nourishing their soul. Eighty to ninety percent of Catholics in this country do not attend church on a regular basis, so when do they hear a Word from God? They have no spiritual nourishment, and because of this they suffer immensely. We need regular spiritual food, twice a week, as was done in the primitive Church. Church Fathers said do not let three or four days go by without hearing a Word for your soul.
When your receive Last Rites before death it includes Viaticum, Holy Communion. Viaticum originally meant to give a person a meal as a preparation for his journey. Catholics use this term to describe the last Communion we receive and it is truly food for the journey, the crossing to eternal life. We need this food at the moment of death and often in life. We ask for it in the Our Father when we say: give us today our daily bread, our supersubstantial bread, the Eucharist.
Have we given some thought to what is included in our spiritual diet? Is there something that nourishes us during the week? It’s possible to read a spiritual book for ten minutes a day, or to attend daily Mass once during the week, or to read a chapter of the New Testament each day. This feeds our soul and helps us, why do so many fail to find the time for it?
St. John Marie Vianney said people so often go to church with nothing on their mind to ask the Lord and when they visit someone they know exactly what they want to say. When your souls are nourished you will have many things to ask the Lord, and the best time to ask him is just after Communion, or in front of the Lord in the tabernacle, or in a quiet room in your house. I am the bread of life Jesus tells us again, and again. Life comes from me. Let’s not miss it.