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Tasting the ‘living bread’

August 14, 2015
Deacon Faiva Po’oi

Marie is a extraordinary minister of holy Communion in her parish. Each Sunday she attends the 10 a.m. Mass. After Mass, she takes the Eucharist to a man named John. John lives alone. According to Marie, she usually finds John sitting in his rocking chair by the living room window. His chair creaks as he sways back and forth. John’s hearing is bad. His eyesight is poor, and a heart attack has slowed down his activity. Yet John’s 88-year-old faith is strong and vibrant.

Each Sunday John waits eagerly for someone. “That someone,” says Marie, “is Jesus, and I, a 22-year old college student am privileged to bring Jesus to John.” When Marie arrives with the Eucharist, John becomes an active participant. After taking off her coat, Marie sits down beside John. She reads the Sunday Gospel to him, and ends with a little reflection on the Gospel. Next comes the moment that John has been waiting for all week. Marie begins by praying the Lord’s Prayer with John. Then she holds up the body of Christ for John to see and says, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.” John answers in a soft but firm voice, “Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” Marie then gives John holy Communion. After another prayer, Marie and John chat together for a while. Then they hug, say goodbye, and promise to pray for each other.

This simple story illustrates the kind of faith Jesus invites us to have when he says in today’s Gospel: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven … My flesh is the real food; my blood is the real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him.” In this Gospel, Jesus makes it clear that he gives himself – his very flesh and blood – to us as our “living bread.” This “living bread” is not only a source of nourishment for the present, for our life in the risen Christ, but also a source of nourishment for our journey toward everlasting life.

The story of Marie and John reminds us that if the reception of Communion is to be a faith experience, it must be done within the context of prayer. The moment of receiving holy Communion can be compared to a diamond, and the time before and after Communion, can be compared to a gold band. A diamond is beautiful in itself, but when made the centerpiece of a gold band, it becomes incomparably more beautiful. The same is true of Communion. In itself, the reception of holy Communion is a beautiful moment, but it becomes incomparably more beautiful if we place it within a setting of prayer.

We might ask ourselves this question: Does our own reception of the Eucharist make us more loving in our lives, especially toward those who need our love the most, like John in the story? In other words, does our reception of holy Communion draw us closer not only to Jesus, but also to one another?

Our reception of the Eucharist can and should transform us. When we drink from the cup, we are sharing in the blood of Christ. When we eat the bread, we are sharing in the Body of Christ.

Let us give thanks for the gift of his divine self.

Deacon Po’oi serves at St. Timothy Parish, San Mateo.

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