The Most Important Choice

The Gospels these past Sundays continued to unravel the beautiful teachings of Jesus on the Holy Eucharist. It is probably the most profound and the deepest that the Lord has given, and so, because they can’t handle it anymore, many left Him. Only those who have authentic and genuine faith stayed, showing the beauty and depth of their conversion, especially Peter and the Apostles.

Jesus was relentless and does not back down in any way from His beautiful and very deep teachings on the Holy Eucharist. What He said He stands behind, for example; He spoke about the condition to following Him, that is: ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you’ (Jn. 6:53).

What is good about this is that Our Lord gives the disciples the freedom to accept or reject what He has taught. Similarly, we are given the choice to accept or reject His teachings; this freedom is important for us to discern entering into authentic and genuine faith. We’re not being forced or manipulated into believing. More importantly, Jesus offers Himself and invites us to believe.

In the First Reading, Joshua boldly proclaimed to the tribes of Israel, ‘As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord’ (Jos. 24: 15). In the Second Reading, St. Paul proclaims the responsibilities of married couples and exhorts us to be faithful to the vows we make, finding an analogy in the relationship of Christ and the Church. In the Gospel, Jesus asks the Twelve, and is also asking us, ‘Do you also want to leave?’

Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.’

May we realize that only Jesus has the words of eternal life. He is the best ‘option’ to choose. This is true no matter how popular that choice is and no matter if people we know are making it too.

‘As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.’ (Jos. 24: 15)

Consuming Jesus!

The weekend was one great experience in that I experienced two major events: the tree-planting event at the mountains, and the family reunion of my Mother’s side. During the Sunday Mass offered during the reunion, our Celebrant shared with us the one prayer that priests say during the time they mix the wine and water, just before the Consecration,

‘As You share in our humanity, may we also share in your Divinity.’

This prayer is very meaningful because it tells of responding to Jesus’ generous love of sharing Himself as flesh and blood in order to raise us up on the last day. It speaks much because certainly our relationship with Him is life-giving. His love is nourishment for the soul and the spirit. He knows that our life is full of trials and challenges thus, we need strength and healing of the wounds, the bruises and the pains we experience while here on Earth.

As His faithful followers, we also share Jesus to others. However, unless we have Jesus, we can’t give what we don’t have. We have to be in a state of grace to be able to transmit that love to those in need of Jesus’ presence. When we give our time and talents for the sake of the Gospel, we are being the Eucharist to others. We are one in the Body and Blood with Jesus. We can only be such when we take seriously our Lord’s instruction to make the Eucharist as the true source of our nourishment.

As we continue reflecting on the Bread of Life, may we take heart in consuming Jesus in the Holy Eucharist — so that we may be transformed. Changing our own selves should be the ultimate driver and motivation of following Him till the end.

‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.’ (Jn. 6: 51-58)

Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord!

A few days ago, a January 15, 1995 video appeared in my FB page, showing then Pope now Saint John Paul II in Manila for the World Youth Day. The video showed about 4 million people attending the closing Mass, singing together, “Tell the World of His Love”. It was such a beautiful sight: the millions of people in attendance, while so many others still watching in their own homes all over the country and the world. Try singing the song with that crowd and I’m sure your eyes will be moist and your heart glowing with inspiration. If we can be touched that deeply, how much more the realization of Jesus’ love for us, the theme of that music, as manifested in His offering of His Body and Blood as nourishment of our souls.

As the past Sundays talk about the miracle in the desert, where God provided the manna for the Israelites, and then the Gospel about the miracle where Jesus fed the five thousand; yet all of these pale in comparison to the number of miracles happening every day, when the Bread and Wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the countless Masses celebrated all over the world. It is a treasure we all should know and cherish as the Church reveals to us the real worth and value of the Holy Eucharist. Jesus is the Living Bread who came down from Heaven, and He has promised us Eternal Life if we partake of it.

Yes, while reading through the Gospel today, the discourse of St. John seems to be the emphasis in the past weeks and for a couple more of Sundays to come, telling us the importance of the Body and Blood of Jesus. It is a not-so-easy topic considering that John talks about what is Eternal, Heaven, and God the Father, among others. These are topics that are difficult to explain, more so understand. But for one who has faith in God, there’s no need for an explanation, believing in it is enough.

Thus, given all these, now is the perfect time to ask ourselves, whether we are allowing God to draw us in, and do we embrace Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and let Him feed our souls? Or do we neglect it, get lost in the anxieties and worries of everyday life, so that He just gets pass us unnoticed? Maybe we should take heart in the advice to slow down, being mindful of what’s happening around us, so that as the Psalmist says, we can ‘Taste and see the goodness of the Lord!

‘I am the Living Bread that came down from Heaven, says the Lord; whoever eats this bread will live forever.’ (cf. Jn. 6: 51)

Enduring Faith

In our organizations, there is at least one team member who likes to complain. An example is the person who answers your every concern with a corresponding statement that is more often than not, a complaint rather than an explanation for his failure.

In the First Reading, the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.
The Israelites said to them, ‘Would that we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!’ They were ungrateful despite their delivery from slavery and were short in memory for what Yahweh has done for them. Yet God remained faithful to them despite their hardheadedness. So that the Israelites know that ‘I, the LORD, am your God’, in the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread,’ said the Lord to Moses.

We are in many ways like that, we always forget how the Lord’s goodness has sustained us throughout. In our journey, the road can get rough and tough, and when it does get worse, we can be tempted to complain like the Israelites do. When we encounter this situation, we have to look at it differently. We have to see these times of difficulties as a test of how dedicated we are in our mission, and see what is really the motivation in our hearts, and a reminder to endure hardships as a good soldier of Christ. (2 Tim.2: 3) Yesterday, when we were discussing about the purpose of the Barista Academy, we talked about the difficulties we can encounter, about how we can get tired and fatigued. Yet someone said, that ‘for as long as we are focused on our purpose, it’ll not matter.’

In the Gospel (Jn. 6: 24-35), after realizing that the people were looking for Him not because they saw signs but because they ate the loaves and were filled, Jesus tells His listeners ‘not to work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.’ Jesus as Man knows that life is filled with much work, but He also knows the need to remind us that the work we do today will soon be forgotten. He knows that what He offers will last forever. After Jesus tells the crowd that ‘the bread of God is that which comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world,’ they say to him ‘Lord, give us this bread always’. Somehow in their hearts at that moment they knew that there is something about Jesus that drew them closer to Him. They knew in their hearts that He was telling something deeper about the gift that He will give them, the Gift of Himself.

In our evangelization efforts, there will be times that people will abandon the faith after finding it to be just too hard to accept and to understand. But some will believe and stay close to the Lord.

Let’s hope and pray that we will be like the people who stayed with the Lord. May we remain steadfast in our faith that His Body and Blood, the real and authentic ‘Bread of Life’, will nourish every part of us as we continuously prepare to be worthy in receiving Him at Holy Communion. May this nourishment make our faith endure the difficulties we meet along the way. Finally, may we always remain grateful to the Lord for this awesome gift!

“The Lord gave them bread from Heaven.” (cf. Ps. 78: 24b)