John 6 Day 3

Day 3: Monday, April 15th John 6:22-29

Fr. Reutter’s reflection

After Jesus crosses the sea, He encounters His disciples who are still doggedly following Him. We know that Our Lord can certainly read hearts – knows exactly what motivates us and “makes us tick.” So He often warns us out of love to do things for the right motive – that is, the one which will help us remain in His friendship in this life, so that we can have eternal happiness in the life to come.

So Jesus challenges these followers, telling them that the reason they were following Him was because they were impressed with the miracle of being fed with food for the belly seemingly out of nowhere. They were inpressed with the delights of the material world, like tasty bread.

But if we remain focused on material goods only – we will fail in our trajectory for the good that really matters: our friendship with the Lord Jesus.

Interestingly, Jesus says “do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life.” That is important, because it reminds us that, just as we have to work to put bread on the table for ourselves and our families, we have to work properly to receive the Bread of Life.

That is a key point, because, as the great Eucharistic teacher St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us, whatever is received, is received according to the mode of the receiver. That means that, unlike, say, receiving a medicine that works in our body, whether or not we understand the science behind how it heals, when we receive the Eucharist, the grace and help it gives to our lives depends on how we prepare our hearts for it. We could say that a medicine works “passively,” but receiving the Eucharist has to work “actively.” As a result, we have to think and pray about what the gift means, we have to take steps to increase our devotion to the gift of the Eucharist (such as attending Eucharistic adoration or praying over the passages about the Eucharist in the Bible).

We spend a great deal of time and effort buying food, preparing food, and so on. I am always astonished especially at how much time and energy young people put into food: watching cooking shows and YouTube videos, trying new restaurants and buying specialty foods and coffees. This has been a huge generational change. When I was young, many people (including most men) didn’t spend that all much time thinking about food. We kind of “ate what was put in front of us,” ate simpler, rarely ate at restaurants, and so on. But there has not been a corresponding growth in attention to the food that really matters: the Holy Eucharist. In fact, it is going in the opposite direction. Many baptized Catholics – especially younger ones – simply do not bother with holy Mass. This is exactly the danger that Jesus warns against.

Take home point: As a spiritual exercise, consider “tallying up” how much time we spend cooking for, shopping for, and preparing the food that we eat in a week. Then see if we can take even 1/10th that amount of time in a devotion to the Eucharist (making a holy hour in Church, reading a book or watching a YouTube video about the Eucharist, and so on).