Jesus: Our Source and Summit
Over the next few weeks, the gospel readings will be taken from the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Saint John. This chapter is called the “Bread of Life Discourse” because Jesus speaks about himself as the Bread of Life. We will be speaking quite a bit about this because it is so important. If you would like to review these homilies you can find them, both in text and podcasts, on our website, saintmary.life.
As we go through this chapter of John’s gospel, we reflect on the great gift of the Eucharist – that profound truth revealed to us by Jesus that simple bread and wine become his very Body and Blood given to us during Mass. When we use the word Eucharist in this context we are talking about the Body and Blood of Christ which we receive during Mass. We should never fail to thank God for this miracle of Jesus’ presence in Holy Communion and meditate on its power to transform our lives.
The Church tells us the Eucharist is “the source and the summit of the Christian life”. What do those words mean?
First of all, the Eucharist is the “source” of our life. As a Church and as individuals, we draw our life from the presence of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion. In today’s gospel, Jesus says, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life.” Just as food sustains our physical bodies, so the food of Holy Communion nourishes our souls. Through Holy Communion, Jesus gives us his very life. It is like a spiritual blood transfusion that restores us to health and makes us strong again.
That is why, whenever we gather as a Church, we celebrate the Eucharist. It is the meal which identifies us as believers in Christ. Just as a family gathers around a table for a meal during special occasions, we gather around the altar for an intimate meal with our Father in heaven, with Jesus our Brother, and with the Holy Spirit. At every Mass, then, we are brought into the love relationship of God himself.
We are a Church because God gathers us together and nourishes us. Without the Eucharist, there would be no Church because Jesus would not be fully present to us. That is why we say that the Eucharist is the source of the Christian life because the Eucharist makes the Church.
Secondly, the Eucharist is the “summit” of the Christian life. The word “summit” means “height” and also “goal”. Because we are made in the image and likeness of God, we are made to be in an intimate friendship with him. In the Eucharist, we achieve this friendship in a powerful and meaningful way. Jesus himself comes to enter our very bodies under the appearance of bread and wine. We enter into a “Holy Communion” with him; that is, we are united with him in a real and intimate way which is unlike any other union we can have with another person.
In the Eucharist, Jesus comes to live within us. What a beautiful truth! The Eucharist is the summit of the Christian life because there is no greater expression of what we are called to be. We were created to be united with God forever. In Holy Communion, that is exactly what happens.
We should treasure it and rejoice in Jesus’ gift of the Eucharist. At the same time, this intimate communion with Christ should change us. If we are truly receiving Jesus himself, then we cannot leave here the same way we came. We must be different, and it must show in the way we live our lives.
In today’s second reading, Saint Paul urges us with these words: “You must no longer live as the [unbelievers] do.” he then says, “…you should put away the old self of your former way of life… and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” This “new self” is us transformed by communion with Jesus.
How do people who have regular contact with Jesus in the Eucharist behave? Well, they should carry themselves with a certain dignity and reverence because they are aware that Jesus is living within them. Mindful of Christ’s presence within them, they should be careful about what they say and do, so it will be pleasing to Jesus. This intimate communion with the Son of God also makes them able to see Jesus in others. Recognizing how generous God has been to them, they strive to show the same generosity to others. Because Jesus humbled himself to feed them in the Eucharist, they should humble themselves to serve others.
If we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, then we should become like Jesus. We receive the body of Christ to become more and more like Christ.
Of course, none of us are perfect. Even if we receive the Eucharist every day, we will still struggle with sin and failure. That is why, before receiving Holy Communion, we should be examining our consciences to see whether or not we are measuring up to our calling as Christians. And, if our sin is serious, we should wait until we have gone to confession before receiving our Lord in the Eucharist. Just as we wouldn’t approach a friend we have hurt without apologizing first, so we shouldn’t receive Jesus in the Eucharist without first approaching him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation to express our sorrow and receive his love and mercy.
This is what we want you to know today: Jesus is the bread that comes down from heaven to give life to the world. Just as a baker gathers many grains of wheat together to make one loaf of bread, so Jesus gathers many diverse peoples together to create one family – the Church. We draw our life from Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist and we experience the union with him that our hearts desire. And that intimate friendship with Jesus transforms us so that we can feed others with the love of God just as we have been fed.
That is what we want you to do this week: Find some quiet time. Open your Bible to the sixth chapter of John’s gospel and spend some time reflecting on Jesus’ words. I will only take you about 20 minutes. Maybe you can read it a few times this week. The Son of God, Jesus, is speaking to each one of us, telling us of his love for us, and of his desire to nourish us by giving us the Bread from Heaven which is his very self.