We’re gathered here at Mass now, as we come every Sunday, to the same Mass, the same thing. I want, however, to say a word about how the Eucharist is also DIFFERENT every time we receive Holy Communion, different every week, different every day, different according to our different needs.
If you recall, we’re now in our 2nd Sunday of 5 Sundays with Scripture readings on the Eucharist, all focussed on John chapter 6, and my focus this Sunday is on this aspect of being fed, fed according to our needs, the Eucharist being adapted to YOUR particular needs this very day.
The Lord, we know, feeds us in Holy Communion. And Holy Communion, which is Jesus Himself “the Bread of Life” (Jn 6:35) –as we just heard in that Gospel text, Holy Communion is often compared to the miraculous manna that the Jews were given to eat when they were wandering in the desert, as we heard in our first reading (Ex 16:2-4.12-15).
If you recall the context, the Jews were rescued from slavery in Egypt by the miracles the Lord worked through Moses, like the parting of the Red Sea.
But when they got to the desert, and wandered there for 40 years before entering the Promised Land, as they wandered in the desert they were hungry. So, as we heard in the first reading, the Lord gave them manna from heaven to eat, a mysterious bread that appeared on the ground every morning.
There are 2 things I want to point out to you about this manna:
First, the people got bored with it (Num 11:6). It was the same every day.
In this sense it was like the Eucharist, because we can look at the Eucharist and think it’s always the same, unexciting, uninteresting.
Second, however, I want to draw your attention to what we also read in the Old Testament about the manna, and it is this:
it was mysteriously adapted to what each person needed,
so that they were able to live on nothing but that manna for 40 years. In the book of Wisdom we find this commentary about the manna:
It “provided every pleasure and [was] suited to every taste ...[it] was changed to whatever each one desired”(Wis 16:20).This text from Wis 16:20 is partially quoted as our Communion Antiphon for this Sunday, Week 18.
Now, the point is this, the Eucharist, being not just manna but the very “flesh”(Jn 6:51) of the Lord Jesus, the Eucharist is similarly adapted to our every need, even more than the manna was. And this is a point that we find reflected on in the writings of many of the saints, as quoted in the liturgy, for example:
“[Concerning the Eucharist] What could be more delightful that that in which God offers us infinite delight? ‘Without their toil you supplied them with bread from heaven ready to eat, providing every pleasure and suited to every taste. For your sustenance manifested your loving kindness towards your children; and the bread, ministering to the desire of the one who took it, was changed to whatever each one desired’...This sacrament is the fruit of the tree of life... This sacrament is operative to produce both love and union with Christ.” (St Albert the Great, Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel 22,19, in Office of Readings, 15 Nov, Vol 3, p.397). Also, the Communion Antiphon this week, week 18 in Ordinary Time: “You have given us, O Lord, bread from heaven, endowed with all delights and sweetness in every taste”.And, if the Eucharist is what Jesus says it is, namely, His very self, then this is exactly what we should expect: as the Lord God, Jesus contains every goodness, is able to satisfy our every need. And when we come to Him with one need He is coming to us to satisfy that need. When we come to Him with another need then He is coming to us to satisfy that need.
He comes in Holy Communion to satisfy our every need:
When I come to Him weak, He comes bringing His strength.
When I come to Him sad, He comes with His consolation.
When I come to Him lonely, He comes as the companion of my heart.
When I come to Him fighting temptation to sin, He comes with the grace to resists sin.
Even when I come to Him deluded and self-satisfied and thinking I don’t need Him, He comes offering graces to draw me away from my self-delusion.
So, finally, let me bring this to a practical conclusion, let me ask you a question:
What do you think about when you are receiving Holy Communion?
Do you come to Him thinking of nothing? With an empty head? Or worse?
Or, you come to Him mentally and spiritually focused on Him so that you will be suitably DISPOSED and able to receive the graces on offer in Holy Communion?
Every need for your soul is ready to be satisfied in Holy Communion –if only we are open to Him!
I have printed in the newsletter this Sunday a little ‘Spiritual Communion’ prayer I often use, that I’d suggest to you, to focus our thoughts as we approach the altar:
“I wish, Lord, to receive you with the purity, humility and devotion with which your most Holy Mother received you, with the spirit and the fervour of the saints”
To go back to where I began: we’re here doing what we do every Sunday, every Mass, but it is not just all the same.
The Lord Jesus knows what we need,
He comes bringing what we need,
because He comes as His very Self.