Miracle Of Miracles

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The whole vision has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one who is literate, saying, “Read this, please.” And he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” Then the book is delivered to one who is illiterate, saying, “Read this, please.” And he says, “I am not literate.” (Isa 29:11-12).

It is a mystery which both the  learned and the  illiterate fail to understand. Those who consider themselves wise fail to  grasp its meaning. Those who are   ignorant know nothing of it. It is the stone that the  builders rejected without knowing its value. It is the delicious bread that Jesus Christ  has kept ready for those people who are  invited from the east, the west, the north and the south for the  Lord’s table in the kingdom of  God. To those who  rebelliously  turn their  face away from his invitation, Jesus has said this also. “None of  those who were invited  will taste my dinner” (Lk 14:24).

Holy Eucharist! Volumes are not enough to explain it, because there is nothing like Holy  Eucharist  in the  whole history of man. It is unique to the core. You cannot even draw parallels to what Jesus  accomplished in Calvary. It was the  miracle of a man giving away  his  body and blood as ransom for the  whole of humanity! How is it possible? A disciple, who straight from the Lord’s table,  left for the  darkness outside, failed to  understand it. Those Jews who  were wondering about the  sheer possibility of a man  giving  away his  body and blood to others as food could not hide their amazement. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” They did not get the answer they expected. In fact  the  reply of Jesus  compounded their  doubts.  They did not  understand who Jesus Christ was  and what the  value of   Eucharist was. Had they known it ‘they would not have crucified the  king of glory’.

Israelites who  were fed with  manna in the  desert were  not happy  with it after a while. They felt it was not  sufficient to  satisfy their taste buds. True, familiarity breeds contempt. They could not  grasp the value of this  bread that  God sent them from heaven. Times have changed, but human nature doesn’t. Even today  our  complaint is the same. We fail to understand the value of  the heavenly bread that we call Holy Eucharist because we get it every day without any interruption. We get it free. We get it  without any effort on our part.  Familiarity with something so precious has led us  to disregard its  greatness!

What was  the reason for Israelites not  understanding the  true value of  manna? We get the answer to this question from the gospel of John. ‘Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who  gave you the  bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven” (Jn 6:32). As far as Israelites were concerned,  the sudden appearance  of manna  before their eyes was just another miracle  performed by Moses. The Jews  proved that  they are worthy to be  called the descendants of  those who did not believe in Moses by asking a sign from Jesus. ‘ What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?’ (Jn 6:30).

If they ever realized that  manna was  a precious gift that God the Father sent to them from heaven, they would not have considered it as a worthless bread.  They could not see what was holy in a holy way. It was  natural for such a  nation  that all their  memories about  this heavenly food gradually faded into  oblivion. Such a nation never deserves the priceless gift of the Ark of the  Covenant  always  staying with them. After all, the  Ark  contained  Aaron’s rod that budded,  and the tablets of the covenant, and of course, the golden urn holding the manna. But interestingly,  the Philistines realized its  importance even though the chosen people failed  in it. We read that the Philistines  returned the Ark accompanied with guilt offerings, to  Israelites.

We are nowhere near the realization that Holy Eucharist is Jesus’ own body and blood served to us in  the  form of  bread and wine. We are  yet to grasp the  meaning of  our Lord’s promise; ‘This is the bread that comes down  from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die’ (Jn 6:50). The very thought that ‘we should not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give us’ (Jn 6:27) has become alien to us.  And the philosophy of the  person who told us, ‘I am the bread of life’ (Jn 6:25) is being ridiculed  as  something impractical in this modern world.

Yet  we do not  stop complaining about  what we expect but do not  get from  Holy Eucharist!

What happened to us? We should know why we are not giving the  respect that  Holy Eucharist  deserves. We should know what  will happen if we despise ‘the scepter of God’s Son’ (Ezek.21:10). Holy Mass is not  just another program. Holy Eucharist is not  just another  loaf of bread. It is the  subtle way Jesus Christ selected to be  with us  till the  end of times. It is his  unshakable promise that  he will be  with us  until the day the  sun  stops rising  and setting above us, until the  consummation of everything. For Jesus, the  Son of Man and Son of God, opted to humble himself to become a wheat  bread to give us the  real feeling  of a  living  God living  with us. ‘See the tabernacle  of  God  is among mortals’ (Rev 21:3).

This  is   no ordinary bread.  This heavenly bread is reserved as the  minimum qualification for us to  enter the portals of  eternal life. ‘Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and  drink his blood, you have no life in you’ (Jn 6:53). This medicine for eternity  is administered to us as viaticum at the time of our  final journey towards heaven.  Christ to abide in us  and we in Christ, there is no other way except   receiving  Holy Eucharist. ‘Those who eat my flesh and drink my  blood abide in me, and I in them’ (Jn 6:56). He has also told us that  those who eat this bread   will live because of  him. ‘ Whoever eats me will live because of me’ (Jn 6:57). In the letter to the Hebrews we read; ‘And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all’ ( Heb. 10:10).

As Christians, we  confess our faith in eternal life which is  essentially a passover from death to  life. We repeat it in the Creed, in our daily  prayers and also during Holy Mass.  Holy Eucharist is the   ultimate  sign of this Passover  from death to life. Here a mere  wheat bread  is transformed into the living body of  Jesus Christ. And ordinary wine becomes his blood. If it  is possible  for God to create everything from nothing, do you think that  transforming   inanimate things to living objects is not  possible for Him? Then why should we  doubt God’s power to  raise the  dead? If we believe that   God  loved us to the  extent of sending  His  only begotten Son to us, why can’t we believe that  He will express this  love  towards us  by  raising us from  death also?

It follows that  belief in  the Holy Eucharist is in essence  belief in life after death. After all we are receiving the body and blood of  Jesus Christ  who though crucified rose again. We are sharing the  hope  in  eternal life by partaking in the  sacrifice of  Jesus in Calvary. Catholic Church teaches us  that  every Holy Mass celebrated in this world  is a re-enactment of  the  sacrifice of  Jesus that happened two thousand years ago. ‘Because it is the memorial of Christ’s Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. The sacrificial character of the Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution: “This is my body which is given for you” and “This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood.” In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (CCC 1365).

The Church underlines the  fact that   the  sacrifice in the cross and its enactment  in the  altar are not two distinct   incidents, but   one and same sacrifice, by affirming it in  its catechism.

The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory’ ( CCC 1367).

If the  sacrifice is the same, its results also will be  the same. If the sacrifice of   Jesus Christ in Calvary brought us  salvation and   eternal life,  every  Holy Mass we  celebrate with  due preparation will also  guide us to  the eternal kingdom where we will reign with our Lord.

While  teaching about the   ways in which   the faithful should get  the  Christ experience, during the  period after his ascension, the Church mentions the Word, prayer fellowships, prayers, and sacraments but  concludes her teaching by focussing on the Holy Eucharist. ‘Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us,” is present in many ways to his Church: in his word, in his Church’s prayer, “where two or three are gathered in my name,” in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But “he is present . . . most especially in the Eucharistic species’ (CCC 1373).

What  helps us is  persevering  through the hard times of  this life is the  hope in the bliss and joy that we are going to enjoy in the  world to come.  Holy Eucharist is the most  visible and present symbol of this heavenly joy and the  Church summarizes her teachings about it in the  following words: ‘ There is no surer pledge or dearer sign of this great hope in the new heavens and new earth “in which righteousness dwells,” than the Eucharist. Every time this mystery is celebrated, “the work of our redemption is carried on” and we “break the one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live forever in Jesus Chris.’ ( CCC 1405. 

Yet we doubt the efficacy of Holy Eucharist. As we said earlier, it is a sealed book   that  is  not  open to the  learned   as well as the  illiterate. It is not possible to  understand the value of the  Holy Eucharist unless  the seal is broken.  And we know that  breaking the seal of   divine mysteries is the  work of the Holy Spirit.

Those who are blessed to  get the   grace to truly know the greatest  miracle  in  this  world that we call Holy Eucharist, reaps its benefits. For those who  do not  get this grace, Holy  Eucharist is ‘a stone that makes them stumble,  and a rock that  makes them fail’ (1 Pet 2:8). They  fail to  understand  one thing; ‘Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush  anyone on whom it falls’ (Lk 20:18). 

The teaching about  this heavenly bread  had  caused  great  confusion  even  during the  times of Jesus. But what we should  remember  is that   in spite of  a large-scale desertion from the ranks of his  disciples,  Jesus never    tried to convince them, nor did he  move  an inch from  his teaching. Instead what he did was  asking those  disciples who remained with him; “Do you also wish to go away?”(Jn 6:67). We should remember that this question was  addressed to  a handful of  persons   who were witnessing  a rapid  erosion in the   number of  disciples solely because  of a teaching about Eucharist!

Even today, Jesus asks the same  question to those  whom the Eucharist  makes stumble. “Do you also wish to go away?” Those who do not  believe that the  body and blood of  Christ will lead them to  eternal life can go to the darkness outside. Let others  say like Peter; ‘Lord, to  whom can we go? You have the  words of eternal life. We have come to believe  and know that  you are the Holy One of God’ (Jn 6:68).

Let us pray to the Holy Spirit to impart us the  true wisdom to understand the mystery of the  sealed book called Holy Eucharist. It is the Spirit who completes what was left by  Jesus. In fact, there is nothing new to be learnt about   the Eucharist, because  Jesus had already told us everything. What we need is   the humility of Peter to  know it. Sadly, we see that  so many  Catholics skip  the  Holy Mass nowadays. Certain others do attend the Holy Mass, but excuse   themselves from receiving the  Holy Eucharist. They do it  often for silly reasons. We should remember that if we refuse to receive the  body and blood of Jesus Christ, even when they are offered to us, the responsibility is ours. We are going to be the   ultimate losers and the value  of what we lose  will be   clearer in the  coming days, when  the devil will go to any extent to make sure  that the ‘regular burnt offering is taken away’( Dan 12:11).

Let us pray: O Jesus Christ, who waits for us with the  bread of eternal life and  the cup of salvation, grant us the grace to understand the  true value of Holy Eucharist. May the   faith that your  body and blood bring us forgiveness of sins  and  eternal life be deeply  engraved in our hearts.   

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