READINGS: 1st Reading: 1Kgs 19:4-8: The angel gave Elijah food to reach the mountain of God.
Resp. Ps 34: Taste and see that the Lord is good.
2nd Reading: Ephesians 4:30—5:2:Forgive each other as readily as God forgave you.
Gospel: John 6:41-51: Anyone who eats this bread will live forever.
It is surely the hope of all us that at the end of our lives we will have a priest with us to celebrate the Last Rites. As our stay in this world draws to its close, the Church provides sacramental means to aid us on our transitus, our passing through the gateway between this world and the next. Those of us who have been privileged to be present at such a celebration may well have shared in an experience of peace and hope, of comfort and hope, in some cases even joy. There is a sense of homecoming to God and of his embracing love. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that ‘Communion in the Body and Blood of Christ received at this moment of passing over’ to the Father, has a particular significance and importance. It is the seed of eternal life and the power of resurrection, according to the words of the Lord: He who eats my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
The Old Testament reading for Mass today explores the theme of viaticum; food for the journey. In the First Book of Kings we hear of the prophet Elijah journey through the wilderness; a journey which leaves Elijah exhausted and famished, so hungry he longs for the release of death. An angel touches him and points out a hot scone and a jug of water, food to sustain him on his pilgrimage, both physically and spiritually. A second helping generously provided by God leaves Elijah fortified for his forty day journey to Horeb, the mountain of God. Like the gift of Manna to the Israelites wandering in the desert on their journey to the promised land, this mysterious food provided Our Lord with a familiar image on the basis of which to teach the apostles and the crowds the Bread of Life.
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In the Gospel, Our Lord says to us, ‘ The bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world. “ The sacrifice He made, His Death on Calvary and His Resurrection, is our salvation. This salvation, so great as to save the whole world, is offered to us in the Mass and given to us in Holy Communion, The Body and Blood of Christ, received in the Sacrament, are the same Body given for us and Blood shed for us. Our spiritual food is our salvation. Viaticum and the Sacrifice are one, offered by Christ our Lord. The Greek Fathers of the Early Church called Holy Communion “the medicine of immortality.” They saw how the sanctifying effect of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ infused our souls and heals us all of all that turns us from God. In the same way, the regular practice of confession and reception of absolution should make sin more and more anathema to us.
We sometimes pray for those who have died unprepared. Today let us pray that we may not be numbered among them, but rather that our whole spiritual life may have made us ready for the moment. And we can still pray for the grave of a holy death, fortified by the rites of Holy Church, asking our Mother to pray for us to her Son, who died to save us, and who gives us the living bread.