We are in the season of Holy Advent for the 18th time in this second millennia of grace, and yet billions of our brothers and sisters still do not know Christ; millions of the baptized, because their ‘churches’ sundered Apostolic succession centuries ago, lack fullness of sacramental life; the choice of many Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians to forego praxis of faith, they also live in a state of sacramental malnutrition because they cannot, will not, welcome Jesus into their lives through reception of Holy Communion.
Because of the urgency for the spread of the Gospel, to those who do not know Jesus and for the return of the separated, or the fallen away, to fullness of sacramental life, each time we approach the altar to receive Jesus, in Holy Communion, we should plead with Him as He dwells anew within us, for grace of discovering, or returning to Jesus, for all of our brothers and sisters missing from receiving Him who so yearns, so knocks at the door of every human heart, to be welcomed.
That grace of return for the missing, of first encounter for the not yet baptized, is implicit, if we plead for our brothers and sisters, in these verses as Jesus continues His first great teaching on His Self-gift in the Holy Eucharist: Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. “[vs.43.44]
This connection between coming to Jesus and being resurrected on the last day, because the Father Himself draws us to Jesus, connects to the reality of Holy Communion: it is not the deceased Jesus whom we receive, it is Jesus resurrected, glorified, sitting at the right hand of the Father who permeates our being in Holy Communion.
“It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to My Father and learns from Him comes to Me.” [v.45]
Most human beings have the experience of being taught, learning from their dads, or someone who acts as a father for them. This teaching is a gift of love.
Fathers tend to be very proud of their sons and announce to others that this is my son, as our Heavenly Abba has already done before this teaching of Jesus. [cf. Mt. 3:17; Mk. 1:11; Lk. 3:22]
It is precisely because the Father loves the Son, that the Father seeks to draw us to Jesus, to teach us about Jesus, the ‘us’ being every person. Through this learning we are graced to go to Jesus.
“Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; He has seen the Father.” [v.46]
Once more a clear statement by Jesus that He is indeed Son of God, therefore God Himself.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” [v.47]
True faith is not static, but active.
The gift of faith itself is an active grace, motivating us, moving us to preach the faith by living the Gospel, the Gospel of life and loving service of others, with our lives without compromise.
“I am the Bread of Life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” [vs. 48-51]
We live in an age when, in the richer nations, obesity is a major problem, and where many people are obsessed with eating organic food.
The question: how many people who over eat or have money to spend on organic food, are hungry for Christ in the Eucharist, are aware of Christ hungry Himself in the underfed?
The poor often are obese because they cannot afford non over sugared, over fat content food, certainly not costly organic food, while daily millions of our brothers and sisters: the homeless, refugees in camps, prisoners in labour and concentration camps, people living in countries experiencing famine because of war or drought, go hungry, often starving to death.
In the liturgy we pray the Our Father before Holy Communion: Give us this day our daily bread.
As we approach the Bread of Eternal Life, Christ Himself, we should be crying out: Give our hungry brothers and sisters daily bread.
The “Our Father” prayer sinks its roots in man’s concrete reality. For instance, it makes us ask for bread, our daily bread, a simple but essential request, which says that faith isn’t something “decorative,” detached from life, which happens when all other needs have been satisfied. Rather, prayer begins with life itself. Prayer — Jesus teaches us — doesn’t begin in human existence after the stomach is full, rather, it nests wherever there is a man, any man who is hungry, who weeps, who struggles, who suffers and wonders “why.” In a certain sense, our first prayer was the cry that accompanied our first breath. Announced, in that newborn’s cry, was the destiny of our whole life: our constant hunger, our constant thirst and our constant quest for happiness. Jesus doesn’t want to extinguish what is human in prayer; He doesn’t want to anesthetize it. He doesn’t want us to dampen our questions and requests, learning to endure all. Instead, He wants every suffering, every anxiety to leap towards Heaven and become a dialogue. A person once said that to have faith is the habit to cry. [Pope Francis, General Audience, Dec. 12.18]
© 2018 Fr. Arthur Joseph