One of the most satisfying smells that I have memory of was walking by the Continental Bakery on a Sunday morning on our way to Mass at St. Michael’s Church in Ocean Grove and all of a sudden getting a sniff of fresh bread. What a distraction! All during Mass I kept thinking of breaking open a loaf and eating a warm piece of bread slathered with butter. Are you getting hungry?
Jesus is like that fresh bread. He gives us His Body as warm food that tastes good and gives us life. Life forever, now and in Heaven. Jesus is the Bread we eat and the Wine we drink. He is with us and we are with Him.
The Eucharist is true food and drink but at the same time it is very different from every other food and drink. We transform ordinary food into our own bodies but the food of the Eucharist transforms us into the Body of Christ. The statement, “We become what we eat,” is never more true than in the Eucharistic experience.
Why then do many of us who receive the Eucharist not experience more of this radical transformation? Maybe this story will throw some light on the question: A team of Russians and Americans were on a space expedition. Among their cabin foodstuff was Russian black bread. It was tasty but hard on the teeth. It happened during a meal that an American bit into a piece and snapped a tooth. He threw the bread overboard and growled: “Lousy Communist bread.” The Russian countered: “Is not lousy communist bread. Is rotten capitalist tooth.”
If we do not experience the transforming power of the Eucharist, it is probably not on account of a lousy Eucharist but on account of our weak faith.
There is a beautiful old French hymn called: “JE CHERCHE,” and it goes like this:
JE CHERCHE LE VISAGE, LE VISAGE DU SEIGNEUR. JE CHERCHE SON IMAGE, TOUT AU FOND DE ton COEUR.
(I am looking for the Face, for the Face of the Lord,
I am looking for His image, in the depth of your heart.)
Vous êtes le Corps du Christ, Vous êtes le Sang du Christ, Vous êtes l’Amour la paix, la joie du Christ,
Alors? Qu’avez-vous fait de Lui?
(You are the Body of Christ, You are the Blood of Christ,
You are the love the peace, the joy of Christ.
So then? What have you done with Him?)
When Jesus says, “Remember Me” in the Mass, He wants us to celebrate. Like a birthday, we gather together, sing songs, and eat special foods: bread and wine. And like a birthday, we celebrate the new birth of a person who is with us. The Person is Jesus. The new birth is His Resurrection from the dead.
Let us begin today to approach the Eucharist with a more expressive faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, recognize Him in the Eucharist in all those around us who are receiving and let our posture and our behavior image that into a real “breaking of the bread.” Then maybe we shall experience God’s saving power and God’s transforming love.
Father Canuel is a retired priest of the Diocese of Fall River living at the Cardinal Medeiros Residence in Fall River.