1Kings 19:4-8; Eph 4:30-5:2; John 6:41-51
There was a story of this ancient Chinese emperor by the name of Chin. Chin was the emperor who built the Great Wall of China. Extending over 2,000 miles, the Great Wall is the only man-made structure on earth that the astronauts could identify from outer space.
According to National Geographic Magazine, Emperor Chin had a great fear of dying. One day his magicians told him about an island paradise in the Eastern Sea. Its inhabitants had discovered the secret to eternal life. Chin loaded several ships with priceless gifts and dispatched them to the island’s inhabitants, hoping to trade the gifts for their secret.
Reportedly the ships found the islands but the inhabitants wouldn’t exchange their secret for such paltry gifts.
What is the point of the story? The point is that from the beginning of time people had dreamed about never dying. They have dreamed about living forever. They have dreamed about eternal life. With each death of a loved one, that dream became more and more of an obsession with people. And so when Jesus showed up in Palestine and began talking about eternal life, people flocked to hear what he had to say.
Today’s gospel reading we hear the prophetic words of Jesus when He says that He is the living bread that came down from heaven…. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. That bread that He will give is His flesh which He gives so that the world may live. Through these words, Jesus is preparing the believers for the Last Supper that would introduce the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist in the Holy Catholic Church.
But many of them do not believe in Jesus. They complain. They ask how can He have come down from heaven when they know His father Joseph and His mother Mary? Many do not believe because they were not listening to what Jesus was revealing to them. They had worldly minds that were darkened, seeking to challenge every word that Jesus speaks rather than listening. Through the hardening of their hearts, they are not spiritually disposed, this preventing them from perceiving the truth.
It is the same today. There are some who do not hear any of the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church because they are not listening. They are placing all their energies towards challenging every word, every authority, every doctrine, etc….rather than listening to the voice of the indwelling Holy Spirit who has been sent to teach and guide them. Sometimes it is necessary to remain silent and to listen. Then we should prayerfully reflect on what we heard for sometimes, allowing the grace of God to enlighten our hearts so we can see the light in the Spirit of Truth.
For the many important activities of life, we need two kinds of preparation: remote and proximate preparations. Remote preparation concerns what we need to do long before the activity; proximate preparation concerns the things we need to do right before we engage in the activity.
For example, if we need quality education for your children, I’m sure that you would want a teacher who was well-prepared to do the education. But in order for the teacher to be ready, he would need both remote and proximate preparations otherwise the education will be worse. His remote preparation would include his years in the school, his time as student-teacher (practice teaching) and his specialized training for such kind of education. His proximate preparation would be his personal preparation of the subject like making syllabus and lesson plans everyday.
Anyway Fr. Raymund Suriani made a good homily on this truth about remote and proximate preparations which apply, ina special way, to the Holy Eucharist. According to him, if we want to receive a Holy Communion in such a way that it bears good fruit in our lives, then we need to be properly prepared for the experience; and our preparation needs to be both remote and proximate. If it’s not, then yes, we will truly receive Jesus Christ, in His Body, Blood, Soul and Spirit, into our lives but it will not affect us in a powerful and lasting way.
So what about our remote preparation? What must we do, in other words, long before we come to Mass, in order to be more open to the Lord’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament? Well, first of all, we need to pray. If we are not praying everyday; if we are not making contact with the Lord in a daily basis, then we will probably not be able to make good contact with him here. It won’t happen.
Another element of remote preparation is study. The more we understand the mysteries of our faith, like the Eucharist, the more we can actively penetrate those mysteries.
Another important element of preparation is an examination of conscience. In fact, this is absolutely essential. St. Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians: “A man should examine himself first; only then should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup. He who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and drinks a judgment on himself,” (11). In practical terms this means that if we have, for example, missed Mass on a Sunday or holyday without good reason; if we have engaged in illicit sexual activity, either with ourselves or someone else; if we are harboring deep hatred in our hearts, then we should not go to Communion until after we’ve made a good Confession.
Then there are things we need to be concerned with just before we come to Communion. These are the elements of our proximate preparation. For example, concerning our clothing: Does our attire remind us that we are about to receive the King of kings and the Lord of lords? Or does it remind us of something else?
Concerning our thoughts: As we come down the aisle at Communion time, do we focus our thoughts on Jesus? or are we thinking about what we’re planning to do after Mass? Or are we focused on the people around us?
Concerning our actions: Do we approach the altar with hands folded? Do we make an act of reverence before we receive if we receive in the hand, do we make a fitting throne for the Lord and do we step to one side and consume the host reverently at the foot of the sanctuary?
Concerning our words: When the priest or extraordinary minister says, “The Body of Christ,” do we respond with a faith-filled and enthusiastic “Amen”?
Fruitful reception of the Holy Eucharist makes a big difference. According to Jesus, it not only gives us spiritual strength for this life, it also brings us one step closer to heaven. May all of us prepare properly and then receive fruitfully as often as possible.
See Today’s Readings: Cycle B