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I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | God’s heavenly gifts are nourishment for our spirit

‘Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.’

When we are hungry, we eat food, and when we are thirsty, we drink water.

What we do on a physical level, we also do on the level of the spirit. Our spiritual life needs daily nourishment in order to survive and thrive.

In the first reading for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we have the mysterious entity called wisdom. It was already present at the creation of the world. Wisdom is a spiritual entity that comes from God. It gives life to all men and women who welcome it into their hearts.

In this reading, wisdom is personified as a woman preparing a banquet of delicious meats and spiced wine. She says to her invited guests, “Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.”

Foolishness takes away the spiritual qualities that meat and wine bring. Since wisdom comes from God, she brings God’s life into all who partake of her. God’s life doesn’t come to an end, and our bodies do. Hence, we see the ensuing struggle between what passes away and what lives forever. What passes away is fleeting and attractive, but very deceptive. Hence, wisdom would say, “Receive from God those qualities that will stand you in good stead, even after the body passes away.”

Paul picks up wisdom’s theme of rejecting foolishness and embracing wisdom. For example, getting drunk on wine is foolish and leads to debauchery. Paul, on the other hand, encourages us to be filled with the Spirit and join one another in celebrating psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, “Singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.”

When they gather in the Holy Spirit and enter into songs of prayer and praise, they are using heavenly gifts to strengthen their spirits for virtuous living.

What the first two readings describe, the Gospel makes explicit. Jesus uses revolutionary language: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” What the first two readings hint at, Christ proclaims in bold and simple language.

Bread is the stuff of life, but here we are talking about heavenly bread that comes from God to communicate His divine life to us.

Those who eat this bread consume eternal life; it doesn’t get any better than that.

He continues, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” When we consume godliness, godly actions flow from our transformed way of life. The relationship of the Father with Jesus is reflected in our relationships with other Christians. God alive within us helps transform others.

In the entire history of mankind, has there ever been a better bargain? God gives Himself to mankind to eat and drink to prepare for an eternal life of glory. St. Ignatius of Antioch calls the Eucharist the medicine of immortality and the antidote against death. He tells us, “The Eucharist is a fire that enflames us like lions breathing fire.”

We might ask ourselves, “How did St. Ignatius of Antioch, and other great saints, develop such a deep awareness of the power of Christ’s Body and Blood? The answer is simple. They started out with their own helplessness and inability to change their own inner being. They came to the Real Presence and to Holy Communion during Mass with a great awareness of their poverty and a profound longing for an inner change that only God brings.

Many of them sat in faith before Christ in the tabernacle and simply said to Christ, “I invite your Real Presence to come inside of me, and to penetrate my best defenses; move beyond my conscious mind and simply have a freedom in my deep unconscious. I want to give You free reign there, to change everything the Father desires to change, so that more and more I will desire the same things You and the Father desire for me! Change my self-righteousness into repentance, my anger into compassion, my judgmental attitudes into intercessory prayer, and my self-centeredness into works of charity. Help me to discover your goodness spontaneously flowing out of me to others.”

When you are before the Blessed Sacrament in silence and nothing is happening, consider it a real blessing that the Father is drawing you to remain before His Son. If you are facing an insurmountable problem for which you have no answer, rejoice, because if He does not remove the obstacle outside of you, He will transform you inside to be totally at peace with what is outside of you. He got what He wanted — your inner change. That is eternal life. Silence before the Real Presence is downloading His love.

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