It does not matter whether we are talking about a plant or an animal or a human being, if the organism does not take in nutrients, it will not live for long. This is a law of nature. We need to eat to live. Even something like a car, if you don’t put gas in it – if it doesn’t have fuel, it cannot run. If the TV is not plugged in to the electric outlet, it won’t work. Have you ever gone out and forgotten the charger to your phone, or your i-pad? When the battery of the phone or the i-pad runs out, the device can’t function. It is good for nothing. We say it, don’t we, “my phone died.” “My battery died.” These are inanimate objects, yet we say a battery has “life” and that if it runs out of power, that it “dies”. It doesn’t matter how expensive or fancy or how many features a car, a phone, or a device has, without energy to power it, it’s dead and cannot fulfill its function.
For us human beings, food is our source of energy; food is what gives us power. Without eating food, we’ll eventually die. Food is necessary for life. If we do not eat, it doesn’t take long before we stop functioning properly and our systems start to break down. We can’t generate our own energy. We need a source of food, but we also have to take the food in in order to live.
God knows this about us. This is how God made us. So it should be no surprise that if God wants to share his life with us, he has to become food for us. He has to give himself to us in a way that we can eat and digest – take in to ourselves. We can’t go to heaven on our own; heaven has to come to us. This is the reason Jesus was born – why God came down from heaven and became man – that God took flesh and dwelt among us. He had to come to us “in the flesh.” In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus trying to explain this to the Jewish crowds. He says, “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… Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” We need to eat his body and drink his blood to share his life – to remain in him and he in us. The eating Jesus describes is necessary for communion with God. So the question that the Jews argued about is a serious question: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” How does this happen? How does Jesus do this? Jesus gave us the answer to this question – the “how” – at the Last Supper. This is what St. Paul describes in the 2nd reading today that is from his letter to the Corinthians: “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
What we do at the Mass is this very thing – we fulfill the command Jesus gave at the Last Supper – “do this in remembrance of me.” We celebrate the sacrament of the Eucharist. And Jesus is remembered. But “remembering” doesn’t just mean “calling to mind something that happened in the past”; rather, it means to make that event present to us today. In the celebration of the Mass, when we “do this in remembrance of me”, Jesus is made present to us today – “body, blood, soul, and divinity.” He gives us his body for food. He gives us his blood for drink. We share in his divine life and have communion with him. He remains with us and in us, and we remain in him. What an amazing gift! This is awesome! And God can do wonders for us when we let him in – when we take him into our life. His live gives us a new life – a greater life – a super power – not just for this life, but for eternal life. As we hear in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles which describes the life of the early Christian community, the people who devoted themselves to “the breaking of the bread and the prayers” – this is the way the Mass was first described – were united with each other, were generous to the poor and to each other, and they were happy. And this true way of living was recognized by others. People were attracted to them and wanted to join them. The Eucharist is the source of unity, charity, and joy.
This is why today is such a happy day for you and for the Church, for you come to share in the life of Jesus in a new and deeper way in your “First Holy Communion.” Jesus is our food for the journey – the journey to heaven. It doesn’t matter how smart we are, how much money we have, or how many things we possess, if we are not living in communion with Jesus – if we are not eating his flesh and drinking his blood, we will not have life within us and function the way God made us to function. Jesus in the Eucharist is our source for eternal life. He is always available for us, but we have to eat – we have to take him in in order to live. Jesus came that we might have life and have it to the full – that his joy may be in us and our joy might be complete. Whether we are young or old, big or small, we can all grow in our relationship with Jesus and share more in his life, since his life is eternal. Let Jesus in. Let him feed you and strengthen you with his life. Be devoted to the teaching of the apostles – learn your faith; be devoted to the “breaking of the bread” – to the Mass – come to Mass every week; and be devoted to prayer – talking to God and with God who comes close to us in this amazing way. That is how we begin to live, here and now, the life of heaven. May God bless you and your families and our parish family on this day of your First Holy Communion.