The Living Bread
The month of August is dedicated to devotion to the Immaculate
Heart of Mary. Let us ask our good Lord and St. Joseph for the
grace to know and understand the Flame of Love of the Immaculate
Heart of Mary and to place our trust in our Blessed Mother’s loving
This Sunday I share with you a meditation on the Holy Eucharist. I
encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week:
“The Living Bread - Communion restores and renews our
strength, so that we may reach Heaven. The Viaticum: In the
First Reading of today’s Holy Mass (1 Kings 19:4-8) we read that
Elias the prophet, fleeing from Jezebel, went to Horeb, the holy
mountain. During the long and difficult journey, he felt so tired he
wished to die. Enough, Y ahweh, he said. Take up my soul, for I am
no better than my fathers. And lying down there, he fell asleep. But
an angel of the Lord woke him and offered him bread saying, Rise
up and eat, for you still have a long journey ahead. Elias arose, ate
and drank, and strengthened by the meal walked forty days and forty
nights to the mountain of God. What he could not do of his own
strength, he could do with the meal that the Lord gave him when he
was most distraught.
The holy mountain which was the prophet’s destination is an image
of Heaven. The forty days of travel represents our journey through
life, during which we too encounter temptations, difficulties and
fatigue. At times we too may find ourselves distraught and without
hope. As the Angel does, so does the Church invite us to nourish
ourselves with the Bread - in all ways unique - that is Christ Himself,
present in the Holy Eucharist. In Him we will find the strength
to reach Heaven, in spite of our weakness.
Holy Communion was called the V iaticum during the early years of
Christianity, drawing an analogy between this Sacrament and the
viaticum, or provisions of food and money, that Romans took with
them on long journeys. Later, this term was reserved for the spiritual
assistance - in particular, the Holy Eucharist - that the Church
gives to her children during the final and definitive stage of their
journey to Eternal Life. (cf. A. Bride, V iatique, in DTC, XC, 2842-
2858) The first Christians had the custom of taking Communion to
those imprisoned, especially when their martyrdom drew near. (cf.
St. Cyprian, De Lapsis, 13; Vita Basilii 4: PG 29, 315; Acts of the
Martyrs, etc.) St. Thomas teaches that this Sacrament is called the
Viaticum because it prefigures the joy of possessing God in our true
homeland, and because it makes it possible for us to reach that goal.
(cf. St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, 3, q. 74, a. 4) It is our great
help during our life, and especially near the end of the road when the
attacks of the enemy may be all the more intense. This is the reason
why the Church has always recommended that no Christian should
die without it. From the very beginning, the need - and the obligation
- to receive this Sacrament was evident, even though one might
already have received Communion on that day. (Code of Canon Law, canon 921, 2)
We may also recall today the obligation - at times grave - that we
have to do everything possible so that no relative, friend or colleague
of ours dies without the spiritual assistance that our Mother
the Church provides for the final moments of our journey.
This is the best and most effective and perhaps the last possible
manifestation of charity and affection towards those persons here on
earth. The Lord rewards us with a deep joy when we fulfil this most
agreeable, though at times difficult, duty.
Throughout our life, deeds should express our gratitude to our Lord
for many things, but especially for having given us Holy Communion.
Our gratitude will be shown in preparing to receive Him better
each day, and in receiving Him fully aware that He gives us more
than He gave Elias - all the strength we need to travel resolutely
down the road of sanctity.
The Bread of life. Effects of Holy Communion in the soul: I am
the Bread of Life… Jesus tells us in the Gospel of the Holy Mass. (John 6:48-51) If anyone eats of
this Bread, he shall live forever; and the Bread that I will give is My
Flesh for the life of the world.
Today our Lord forcefully reminds us that we need to receive Him
in Holy Communion in order to participate in the Divine Life, to
overcome temptations, to foster and nourish the Life of Grace born
in us through Baptism. Whoever receives Communion in a State of
Grace participates in the fruits of the Holy Mass and obtains benefits
that are proper and specific to the reception of the Sacrament. He
receives Christ Himself, the source of all grace... Thus, the Holy
Eucharist is the greatest Sacrament, the center and summit of all the
rest. The true presence of Christ in this Sacrament gives it an infinite
There is no greater joy in this life than to receive our Lord. When
we wish to give ourselves to others we often give them something
that belongs to us, or something we know to symbolize a deeper
attitude of affection, of love. But we always encounter some limitation
to our self-giving. In Holy Communion, Divine Power surpasses
all human limitations: under the Eucharistic species, Christ gives
Himself to us completely. Love achieves her ideal in this sacrament
- complete identification with the person loved and longed for.
When two pieces of wax are put into the fire, they melt and become
as a single thing. Something similar occurs when we participate in
the Body of Christ and in His Precious Blood. (St. Cyril of Alexandria,
Commentary of St. John’s Gospel, 10:2) Truly there is no
greater joy or greater good than to receive Christ Himself in Holy
Communion with dignity.
The soul cannot but be grateful when, fighting off all routine, we
frequently consider the richness of this Sacrament. The Holy Eucharist
is for the spiritual life what food is for the life of the body.
Just as food strengthens us and prevents weaknesses and death, so
the Holy Eucharist frees us from venial sins which weaken and debilitate
the soul, and preserves us from mortal sins which cause its
death. Food restores our strength and our health. Through frequent
or daily Communion spiritual life becomes fuller and the soul is
enriched with virtues. The person receiving Communion receives a
sure sign of Eternal Life. (St. Paul VI, Instruction, Eucharisticum Mysterium,
15 August 1967, 37) Just as food is needed for the growth of
the body, the Holy Eucharist increases our sanctity and consolidates
our union with God, because participating in the Body and Blood of
Christ transforms us into that which we receive. (ibid., 7)
Communion helps us to give of ourselves in family life; it moves us
to work with joy and with perfection; it strengthens us to bear with
human and supernatural elegance the difficulties and errors of ordinary
The Master is here and He calls you (John 11:28), we are told every
day. Let us not ignore the invitation. Let us go with joy and well
prepared to meet Him. We have everything to gain from the encounter.
Frequent or daily reception of this sacrament. The Visit to the
Blessed Sacrament; spiritual communions throughout the day:
Because we have many weaknesses we should frequently seek the
Master in Holy Communion. The banquet is prepared (Luke 14:16)
and many are invited, although few attend. How can we excuse
ourselves? Love destroys all excuses.
The desire to receive this sacrament can be renewed often during the
day by means of the spiritual communion that consists in an ardent
desire to receive Jesus in theBlessed Sacrament and in a loving conversation
as if we had already received Him. (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Visits to the Blessed Sacrament,
Introduction, III) We will receive many Graces and be given help to
work better and serve others. It will be easier for us to place the Holy
Mass at the center of our day.
The Visit to the Blessed Sacrament is also a very beneficial practice, a
manifestation of our gratitude, a sign of the love and adoration we
owe our Lord. (St. Paul VI, Encyclical, Mysterium Fidei, 3 September
1965, 67) There is no better place than before the Tabernacle for
those intimate, personal conversations that are required for permanent
union with Christ. That is the most appropriate place for our dialogue
with our Lord - as is clear from the lives of the saints - and for giving
impulse to continuous prayer during work, in the street… everywhere.
Sacramentally present, the Lord sees us and hears us with greater intimacy.
His heart still beats out of love for us and is the source of all
life and holiness. (Litany to the Sacred Heart; cf. Pius XII, Encyclical,
Haurietis Aquas, 15 May 1956, 20, 34) He invites us daily to return
the visit that He made to us, coming sacramentally into our soul. He
tells us, ‘You too come away to a desert place to rest awhile.’
Near Him we will find peace if we have lost it, strength to finish well
the work at hand, and joy in the service of others. W hat shall we do,
you ask, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament? Love Him, adore
Him, thank Him and ask Him. What does a poor man do in the presence
of a rich man? A sick man in the presence of a doctor? One
who is thirsty at the sight of a crystal-clear fountain? (St. Alphonsus
Liguori, op. cit.)
Jesus has what we lack and need. He is our strength along the road of
life. Let us ask Our Lady to show us how to receive Him with the
purity, humility and devotion with which she received Him, with
the spirit and fervor of the saints.” (From: In Conversation with
God by Francis Fernandez)
Through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, St.
Joseph, St. Michael and St. Paul, may God grant us the grace of
great love for Jesus, truly present in the Holy Eucharist!
In Christ through Mary,