CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 September 2018

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Who eats this bread will live

At the preparation of the gifts, we the God of all creation, his goodness and the food given by the earth, but produced by the work of human hands.

Although this prayer is short, there is a wonderful depth of meaning in it.

The bread and wine of the Eucharist are the simple symbols, chosen by Jesus to become the offering of the new covenant.

The grains of wheat and the bunches of grapes are both the gift of our creator God, first growing wild and, later cultivated by our unknown ancestors.

Yet, while the earth has given the grain and the grapes, the work of human hands refines them to the human palate. Both grain and grape are crushed, milled or pressed, and then processed into the bread and wine, which we share.

We have indeed been blessed by the creator God. But we have been blessed abundantly by the saviour God, whose life was crushed on the cross and whose blood was poured out for us.

But the new covenant does not add up to an easy escape from suffering. For Jesus, there was the suffering of betrayal.

After the last supper, Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane, where he suffered mental torment. And from the garden he was taken to trial and brutal execution.

There is no easy escape from the reality of humanity for his followers either. St Therese of Lisieux, in the last weeks of her terminal illness, quoted the words of St Ignatius of Antioch, “I, too, must be ground down through suffering in order to become the wheat of God.”

Like Therese, many of us have the experience of suffering, an experience which can only make sense if we can grasp its religious significance.

Therese was not a masochist, she did not enjoy her suffering, but she did accept it as an integral part of her life’s journey.

On his return from Rome at the end of March, Bishop Zen reminded us that following Jesus involves suffering. Indeed, precisely because we are followers of Jesus, special suffering may come our way, which does not come to others.

Such suffering is a genuine part of life’s journey as a follower of Christ. 

It is good to recall that the crushed grain and grapes become food. Jesus’ bodily suffering and out pouring of his blood became a source of hope.

Jesus gives himself to us, as body and blood, for nourishment. When we are suffering, this gift of Jesus is food for the journey of life.

Because of this, one of the most beautiful works of Catholic people is to bring communion to those who are suffering. Some can come to Mass, but others cannot, especially the seriously ill.

 

Every day communion is brought from Mass to those who are suffering. We rejoice and thank God that these people can hear the hope-filled words of St. John, “I am the living bread from heaven, says the Lord; if anyone eats this bread he will live forever.”