People adore the Eucharist during Mass. CNS photo/Paul Haring

How we deal with adversity reveals our commitment to God

  • June 11, 2014

Body and Blood of Christ (Year A) June 22 (Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16; Psalm 147; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; John 6:51-59) 

Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. If only it were true! 

Most of humanity lives by fear alone. The only individual to live perfectly by the word from the mouth of God was Jesus. In fact, Jesus quoted this particular verse in response to the devil’s urging to turn stones into bread in order to sustain Himself. The desert was the place of testing — there was absolutely nothing in the way of life-support in the wilderness. Scorching heat, arid wasteland and venomous creatures were all that greeted the Israelites in their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. God intended it that way — this would teach them that God was their only hope and source of sustenance. They had no means to support and protect themselves, so they had to rely on God or die. God never let the people down, but unfortunately they did not return the favour. Fear and doubt seized their hearts and minds with great regularity, and they even turned their backs on God completely in the incident of the Golden Calf. The 40 years of desert wandering toughened the people and taught them to trust God in all things. 

It is not wise to pray for a life totally free of adversity or struggle. Adversity reveals the quality and depth (or lack) of our commitment to God. For many, faith collapses in the face of fear and adversity and they snatch frantically at practically anything to help them in their predicament or give them false courage. Prayer and faith are easy when everything is going smoothly and we feel on top of the world. But when all the consolations seem to vanish, real faith — from the heart and guts — will see us through. God is not meant to be the last resort in the face of crisis but the very first. The word from the mouth of God is God’s promise to be there for us always — that is our sustenance and nothing else. 

God also sustains the Christian community in the Eucharist. Paul was reminding his community in Corinth that this was not an individualistic devotion or magical guarantee of salvation but a sacrament of unity and equality. All were nourished from the same source and were therefore made one. Participants had to approach the Eucharist with the proper openness of mind and heart and willingness to be a part of a larger reality but of equal importance. The Eucharist is intended to transform and sustain both the individual believer and the community of worshippers. 

John’s Jesus always spoke in riddles and metaphors. In rather cryptic language, He proclaimed that He was the living water, bread of life, good shepherd and the way, truth and life. These metaphors reflected the roles usually associated with God alone. In proclaiming Himself the bread of life and insisting that only His flesh would give life, Jesus stepped into the role of God as the giver of life and sustainer. When He insisted on the necessity of eating His flesh, people were shocked and horrified. Jesus then increased their uneasiness and tension by adding the drinking of His blood. Throughout John’s Gospel ordinary people stopped at the literal, everyday meaning of words and images, leading to incomprehension and confusion. 

Jesus always used these terms in a deeper transcendental sense. For those who did not turn away in disgust at His shocking words, Jesus had an illuminating message. The food that we eat is assimilated by our bodies and becomes part of every cell within us. Jesus cannot be merely an idea or concept, nor an external object of worship, but must become our very sustenance and source of life. His intent is to become part of every fiber, particle and cell of our body — an essential part of who and what we are. 

There are many ways of partaking of the life-giving body and blood of Christ — the Eucharist, of course, but the Eucharist is a way of life. This includes prayer, meditation and co-operation with the Holy Spirit, and is joined by humble and loving service and good works. Who and what we become in this life and eternity depends on how we choose to nourish our minds, hearts and souls. 

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