“The Lord gave them bread from heaven.” We hear these words in today’s responsorial psalm and they are echoed in the first reading and the Gospel. The term “bread” can be also translated as “nourishment.” Not only does God nourish us physically, He also feeds us spiritually. When we pray in the Our Father, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we are not only asking God to take care of our physical needs, more importantly, we are asking Him to give us sustenance in all areas of our life.
In terms of our spiritual lives, God offers to us the gift of the sacraments. As we have been taught, there are seven sacraments or encounters with God’s grace. These symbolic signs of God’s presence invite us to join together in community and conform us more closely to Christ. Each sacrament is connected to the other six and in particular, the Eucharist is found in each sacrament and each sacrament is found in the Eucharist.
Let me explain in a different way: Think of a wagon wheel. There is a hub from which six spokes emanate. The six spokes are held in place by the rim. By way of analogy, the hub is the Eucharist. Each spoke represents one of the other six sacraments. The rim which holds them together is the tradition of the Church. In order for the wheel to be stable, the hub, spokes and rim must be in place and in good working order. So too with the sacraments: Each sacrament needs the other six and all the sacraments need the tradition of the Church in order to more fully express who Christ is and who we are as Church.
Let’s begin with the Eucharist. In every Mass, the other six sacraments are represented. The signs of the cross at the beginning, at the Gospel and at the end remind us of our baptism and call to mind that we are a people of community just as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are a community of Persons in One God. The penitential rite, either the “I Confess” or the “Lord have mercy” (Confiteor and Kyrie), invite us to confess our daily sins and challenge us to conversion, repentance and reconciliation. The readings and homily hopefully inspire us to live out our Confirmation as sons and daughters of God. In the prayers of the faithful, we remember those who are sick or who have died in the peace of Christ. In addition, the Eucharistic prayer should invite us to pray for those who are in relationships, either as married persons or as ordained ministers. Indeed the Eucharistic prayer (and there are 10 of them in Roman Rite) is a microcosm of the sacramental life of the Church because the prayer, either explicitly or implicitly, calls to mind each of the seven sacraments. As Lumen gentium number 11 relates, The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” Everything in our Christian lives should flow from the Eucharist and flow back to the Eucharist.
In other words, who we are as Christians begins with the Eucharistic celebration and everything we do during the week should be orienting us back to the Eucharist. The Eucharist, to quote Jesus, “gives life to the world.”
As we continue to live out our Eucharistic celebration throughout this week, may we strive to see the sacramental presence of Christ in one another. May we truly be a people who live: our baptismal call to community; our invitation to reconciliation and forgiveness; our confirmation as servants; our calling to be ministers of healing; our invitation to build up one another in relationships and to pray for more leaders of sacramental worship.
The Lord has given us bread from heaven to nourish and sustain us. Having been renewed by His sacramental presence, what are we doing to bring that presence to others?