JUST THIS PAST spring, I had the great joy of celebrating Mass for our First Holy Communion children at St. Peter Claver Church. I could see the excitement and joy on their faces as they prepared to receive Jesus for the first time in the Most Holy Eucharist.
It was equally a great joy for me to be with them on this most beautiful occasion, as I celebrated the Eucharist as their new pastor.
In the weeks prior to their First Holy Communion Mass I had the opportunity to meet and pray with boys and girls. I began by asking the question: “What do you think is going to happen to you at your First Holy Communion?”
‘Going to Be Fed’
I received a number of responses, many of which I have heard before, but the one that sticks out to me the most was given by a young boy who simply said: “I’m going to be fed.”
Now I have to be extremely honest: Being a priest for five years now, and having experienced the great joy of ministering to boys and girls in religious faith formation classes, especially First Communion children, I was not expecting that answer at all.
When I dove in deeper with his response, he told me, “Yes, I am going to be fed with Jesus, so my mom and dad said that I can’t eat anything until after Mass.” This young boy was really impressing his new pastor!
Today we begin to hear from John the Evangelist’s “Bread of Life Discourse.” Over the next four weeks, we will hear Our Lord refer to Himself as “the bread of life.”
In today’s passage Jesus tells us not to work for food that perishes, but for food that endures forever. I love the question that the crowd places before Jesus: “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus gives the people a one-word answer – “believe!”
To accomplish the works of God, to be filled with food that will sustain us forever, to be one with the Lord of Heaven and Earth, we must be believers.
We as disciples and witnesses of Christ are called each and every day to live our lives focused on the eternal Kingdom of Heaven. And as St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading, “we should put away the old self of our former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Strength to Overcome
Christ gives us the strength that we need to overcome the worldly desires that may weigh us down, because truly in Him we are lifted up. Each time we approach the table of the Lord, we experience a foretaste of the Kingdom that awaits us.
We are indeed truly fed with the Lord of Heaven and Earth. He is the nourishment that sustains our every need. Although we have earthly food that sustains our physical needs, Jesus provides us with His very self, and that will forever and always sustain us for life everlasting in the Kingdom.
Readings for the 18th Sunday In Ordinary Time
Exodus 16: 2-4, 12-15
Psalm 78: 3-4, 23-24, 25, 54
Ephesians 4: 17, 20-24
John 6: 24-35
Father Alonzo Q. Cox is the pastor of St. Martin de Porres, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and the diocesan coordinator of ministry to African-American immigrants.