Over the next couple of weeks, we will be looking at one of the key passages within the Gospels about the Eucharist. This passage, commonly called the Bread of Life discourse, is a long series of acts and teachings by Our Lord proclaiming Himself as the Bread of Life, which we will discuss more in the next couple of weeks.
This week we begin this discourse with the Multiplication of Fish and Loaves. This miracle by Our Lord is foreshadowed in the first reading by the prophet Elisha giving 20 loaves to 100 people. These loaves were not large, like the typical sliced bread that we can buy at the store today. Each loaf would not be enough to fill one person, much less 5. Yet, 20 loaves fed 100 people with food left over. While this anticipates Our Lord's miracle with the loaves and fish, Our Lord does it on a much grander scale, as He was able to feed 5000 with 12 baskets of leftovers.
By His miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish, Our Lord shows us an even greater sign. He is not showing us that He will continue to feed us physically, so that we no longer have to worry about providing physical nourishment for ourselves. Instead, He is showing us that He will feed us spiritually through the Eucharist. We are given spiritual food we need to grow closer to Our Lord in this life, and to prepare for our future life in Heaven with Him.
In the document Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council calls the Mass “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.” Our Faith flows from the Eucharist and leads us towards the Eucharist. When we attend Mass and receive the Eucharist on a regular basis, we should be drawn to Our Lord. If we are open to the graces that flow through the Eucharist, we should desire to learn more about Jesus and His teachings, which are passed down to us through the Church.
Just as our physical bodies require regular nourishment in order to grow and survive, so our spiritual life requires nourishment. Humans cannot go more than a few days without water, and won't last much longer without food. Likewise, our spiritual life needs to be nourished by the Eucharist on a regular basis or it will die. This is why it's so important to come to Mass every week, every Sunday.
You might have heard someone say that it's not important to go to Church as long as they find God in their own way. Yes, there are many ways in which we can find God outside of the Church, and we are encouraged to do so, but our spiritual life will be severely weakened if we do not receive Our Lord in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ which is given to us at every Mass as food for our spiritual life. God can feed us through other ways, but the normal way we are spiritually fed is through the Eucharist.
As an analogy, a person could live off a diet of just meat; no bread, cheese, or vegetables. It wouldn't be the most balanced diet, and would affect their physical health in the long run, but one could survive off of a diet of just meat. In the same way, one could spiritually live off of just personal prayer to God, but his or her spiritual life would not be as strong as the spiritual life of those who both pray and receive the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the nourishment we need to have a full, healthy, and balanced spiritual life.
This nourishment also prepares us for the journey to the next life, as well as the struggles in this life. It is a long-standing tradition within the Church that one receives the Blessed Sacrament on their death bed as Viaticum, food for the journey. The Eucharist gives us the spiritual strength to face death and the judgment that follows. It also prepares us to face with joy the difficulties and struggles that come at us daily as part of existence on Earth.
Today, may we be open to the graces which flood over us every time the Eucharist is celebrated, and may those graces prepare us for our spiritual journey.