by Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito, Bishop of Palm Beach
As we enter into the National Eucharistic Revival, we should reflect that, every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask our Father to “give us this day our daily bread.” It is a fundamental request for food and daily sustenance. Food is a necessity of life which nourishes us and keeps us alive. Food is also something which we enjoy and draws us into communion with others. We generally take our meals with our families and friends and a great deal of preparation goes into making the meal enjoyable.
Jesus was most aware of the basic elements of food and its ability to sustain life as well as to draw us into communion with one another. Throughout the Gospels we see Him sharing meals with others. He works miracles regarding food. He is concerned about people who are hungry and multiplies loaves of bread so that people can eat. He is also concerned about people enjoying their food. He turns water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana in Galilee. These miracles point to the ultimate miracle of the Eucharist where He changes bread and wine into His Body and Blood for our ultimate nourishment and communion with God and each other.
While the words, “give us this day our daily bread,” are a prayer for food and all of the good that comes from food, they are also a prayer for the gift of the Eucharist. Jesus’ use of food always pointed to its present good as well as to the supreme good of the Eucharist. The Fathers of the Church almost always viewed these words of the Lord’s Prayer as a Eucharistic petition. They understood that our real hunger is for God and that Jesus intended that hunger to be satisfied in the gift of the Eucharist.
After the Resurrection of Christ, the reference to food is consistently present in His appearances. This reference points not only to the goodness of life which the Lord wants us to enjoy in this world but also to the fullness of life which we will enjoy in heaven. The enjoyment of the future life begins and culminates in the Eucharist. Therefore, the Risen Jesus did not hesitate to concentrate on the importance of a meal for the present and the future.
In the Gospels we read of the Risen Jesus appearing to His disciples and the apostles while they were “at table” (cf. Mk 16:4, Lk 24:30, Jn 21:20). These appearances include the well known account of Jesus’ breaking of the bread with His disciples on the road to Emmaus. These encounters of Jesus with His disciples were at a meal. Either the disciples were eating when Jesus appears to them or He approaches them in order to have a meal. If the disciples were eating by themselves, it was a sign of their being together and sharing a meal to comfort each other. The presence of the Risen Jesus makes the meal an opportunity for them to be in full communion with Him and also to celebrate the gift of the Eucharist.
In one of the appearances, Jesus actually asks the disciples for food, “Have you anything to eat?” (Lk 24:41). The Risen Lord’s asking for food, most likely bread, and His eating it with His disciples is not only a sign of His bodily presence after His Resurrection but also of His desire to be in communion with them. His question again points to the importance of food as well as to the gift of the Eucharist. It is also a reminder of Jesus’ words, “One does not live on bread alone” (Lk 4:4). After the Resurrection, Jesus taking food with His disciples in this fashion is a vivid reminder that He alone is the Bread of Life and only on this Bread can we live.
Perhaps one of the most moving references to food after the Resurrection is when Jesus appears to His apostles and miraculously causes them to catch an abundance of fish. On this occasion He wishes to be with His apostles and to discuss important matters of the future with them. Jesus especially wants to question Peter about his love and to make clear Peter’s future role. However, in the midst of a miracle and very important business, Jesus says to His apostles, “Come and have breakfast” (Jn 21:21). In this phrase we can hear the words of a loving parent or grandparent to a child, “Come, sit down and eat your food.” We can hear the intent of these words – no matter how important the matter is before you, you have to eat – then we can take care of other things – in fact, you really cannot go on with life unless you eat. We know from these words of a loved one that the invitation to eat is not only for nourishment but also for enjoyment. They speak that no matter how significant the matter is before you – enjoy your food. This loving intent certainly is the reality of the love of Christ which He gives us in the Eucharist. The loving words of the Risen Jesus, “Come and have your breakfast,” say it all.
Finally, there is Jesus’ commission to Peter after Peter’s triple denial and triple confession of love, “Feed my sheep” (Jn 21:17). If Peter really loves Jesus, he is going to show that love by feeding Christ’s people. He will take care of the Church which is commissioned to his care by feeding it. Obviously, the food he is to give is Christ himself, the very Bread of Life, most fully present in the Eucharist.
If we truly love the Lord, then we must share a meal with Him. Just as we grow in love with our families at the table, we grow in love with the Lord at the table of the Eucharist. Here, we get to know Him better and He has the opportunity to reveal His love for us. The Eucharist is the food of the Church and the heavenly banquet of heaven. The more we appreciate the Eucharist and celebrate it with true devotion, the more we grow in union with Christ and His family, the Church. This sharing of a meal with the Lord is also included in our adoration of Him in the Blessed Sacrament. Spending prayerful time in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament helps us to know the love of the Lord more intimately as well as to prepare to celebrate the Eucharist fully.
Sharing a meal with Christ in the Eucharist should always lead us to sharing our daily bread with others and especially with those in need. Jesus was always aware of the spiritual and physical hunger of others. If we love the Lord, we love those closest to Him and that is the poor and the needy. “For I was hungry and you fed me” (Mt 25:30). The Eucharist should lead us to such outreach.
When we pray, “give us this day our daily bread,” we are praying for a great deal. Like the Lord after the Resurrection, we are asking for something to eat. That food we seek is indeed our daily sustenance as well as Christ who is the Bread of Life. May we always know the joy which this Bread brings and celebrate the Eucharist as a meal with the Lord, for as Jesus promised us, “No one who comes to me will ever be hungry” (Jn 6:35).
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
July 22, 2022