Divine food: How the Eucharist changes our life

We eat food in order to live. Jesus offered himself as the "bread of life" so that we could live a different kind of life. We have a hard time imagining what that different life looks like. When Jesus says, "I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly," (Jn 10:10) it is tempting to think of good health, vacations, and prosperity. Jesus didn't need to die for us to live that kind of life, however. That may be what we want, but our desires fall short of what God wants to give us.

When we eat the flesh of the Son of God, we enter into "communion" with him, a nourishment strong enough to make us as one. He himself is in perfect communion with the Father, so much so that he lives from this communion: "My food is to do the will of him who sent me" (Jn 4:34). When we come into communion with Jesus during Mass, he is offering us his own food so that we can know his Father and live also in communion with him. He passes on everything that he has to us in the Eucharist.

In response, we might be tempted to think, "Is that all?" It seems so simple and hidden, while we look for something more easily sensed and practically used. Jesus offers us something infinitely greater: the food of his divine life. Such a great gift can be easily overlooked or taken for granted. We miss the hidden offering of Jesus's whole self to the Father, which draws us into his love, offering us the communion for which we were made. We can't be happy without it, but we continue to look past it, fixated on the junk food of earthly pleasure and comfort. We cannot preserve his presence in us if we live like everyone else in the world, pursuing other things more than him. If we are in communion with Jesus, we must live "as one" with him, enabling him to be present in us and through us.

The true gift of Jesus's life might be an interior one, but it should change everything. Jesus himself said that those who eat his flesh and drink his blood will never die (Jn 6:50), because his life is greater than the life of this world. Without this food, we live more like zombies, maintaining biological life while lacking the true life of the soul that comes only as a nourishing gift from Jesus. This gift acts as a spiritual leaven that enlivens everything, beginning within our heart as the core and building out from there, layer upon layer. A Eucharistic life cannot be secular, because Jesus desires to be with us in everything that we do. Neither can it be individualistic, because it is based on communion, creating real community with others and shared life that flows from and back toward the altar.

Even if the Eucharist doesn't seem like a practical gift, it is one that can and should make everything better, even on a human level. If Jesus wants to give us life, we can expect him to change us, and he will, if we let him. If he changes us, he will then change others through us. He will build an entire way of life centered on his Eucharistic presence. By eating the body of Christ, we become his body in the world, extending it concretely in time and space. This life puts God first, prioritizing prayer, while also attending to Christ present in others. The Eucharist is the sacrament of love, and thus a Eucharistic way of life must express charity, embodying God's love concretely to others. The sacrament becomes a shared center, uniting us to others by creating stronger families, forming friendships, building community in the parish, and becoming a source of celebration that provides joy throughout the year.

When Mass ends, Jesus asks us, "Will you also go away?" We should answer as Peter does in John 6: "Lord, to whom shall we go? (Jn 6:68). We all face this choice. After communion, what are we doing with the rest of our lives? Are we abiding in Jesus or going about our own business? Are we trying to sustain ourselves with human food? Most of us do not even realize that we can live a divine life of communion with the Holy Trinity. We aim lower and miss even on that level. With Jesus in us, however, everything is better and becomes a means of expressing our communion with God. Jesus becomes present in every detail of our lives, becoming present within it, changing it, and directing it in his love. He becomes our daily bread, nourishing us into everlasting life.