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The Happiness You Seek


Jesus has made Himself the Bread of Life to give us life. Night and day, He is there. If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist” ~ Saint Teresa of Calcutta

With the proclamation of today’s Gospel (John 6:1-15) we begin an eight day voyage through the 6th Chapter of John, which is oftentimes referred to as the Bread of Life Discourse. This Chapter is the longest in John’s Gospel, which unlike the other three Gospels does not include an account of the Last Supper. We begin today with the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, the only miracle story told in each of the four Gospels

The multiplication of the loaves and fishes essentially paves the way for the entire Eucharistic discourse, culminating in the absolutely essential Catholic teaching that the Holy Eucharist is indeed the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. We’ll delve into that famously controversial and admittedly difficult teaching later this week when we tackle John 6:52-59 and then John 6:60-69.

The true origins of the Eucharist however are deeply rooted in the Old Testament. Jesus Himself taught that the Eucharist was foreshadowed in the manna given by God during Israel’s exodus from Egypt (John 6:49–51). This isn’t the only Pre-Last Supper harbinger of this most Blessed Sacrament. Jesus repeatedly evoked banquet scenes in His preaching and he ultimately chose to be born in a town named Bethlehem, which is Hebrew for “House of Bread.” He famously laid in a manger, which in those times served as a feeding trough for the stable animals.

In an extended and explicit foretelling, Jesus would detail the theology of His Eucharistic presence in the previously aforementioned words of John 6:26-58. “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh” (6:51). His flesh is bread; His blood is drink. This of course corresponds directly to His pronouncements over the bread and wine at the Last Supper, the very action He commanded His Apostles to repeat

“This is My Body . . . This is the cup of My blood.”

As Dr. Scott Hahn points out in his new book Reasons To Believe, “Jesus did not treat ‘bread’ and ‘blood’ and ‘flesh’ as metaphors. In the Bread of Life discourse, His language shocked His hearers. The verbs are more graphic in the Greek; He’s telling the assembly that they must ‘chew’ or ‘gnaw’ His flesh. Yet, the more the people expressed their disgust, the more graphic and realistic Jesus’ language became.” Many who otherwise ordinarily insist on a strictly literal reading of the Bible will, with equal insistence, interpret these passages exclusively in terms of metaphor.

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For Thomas Aquinas, the great metaphor for the Eucharist is sustenance, food for the journey. Baptism defines us, making us sons and daughters of God; Confirmation confirms and deepens this identity; Marriage and Holy Orders seal us in our life’s vocation. These are sacraments offered once at key moments in one’s life.Then there is the Eucharist, which is daily food, nourishment to get us through the day-to-day. How effective would we be if we never ate, or ate only on special occasions and in a festive environment? Not very. So, in the spiritual life, we must eat and drink or we will not have the strength.

In celebrating the Eucharist, in sharing in and partaking of “the source and summit of our Christian Faith” as Pope John Paul II would say of Holy Communion, we glorify God the Father in the holiest and most sacred and ethereal of ways. Jesus would ultimately go so far as to say “Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you.” Given the alarming number of atheists in our midst, not to fallen away Catholics, lukewarm Catholics and those who do not believe in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, it becomes easier to see why the world is dying

It was Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who had this to say about the transformative power of the Holy Eucharist. It is his words that I will leave you with today:

“The happiness you are seeking, the happiness you have a right to enjoy has a name and a face: it is Jesus of Nazareth, hidden in the Eucharist.”


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