Consider the Woman at the Well. We read about her in the Gospel of John, two chapters before today’s reading. She encounters Christ privately, as an individual. Our Lord tells her of the living water come down from heaven, and that if she drinks this water she will never thirst. The woman says to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Today, Christ tells a crowd of people about the Bread of Heaven, given by the Father. He tells them, “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
This crowd, meeting Christ publicly as a group, responds very much like the Woman at the Well. They ask of Our Lord, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
Then Christ makes a statement very much like the earlier statement made to the Woman at the Well. He tells them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
How is this possible? Because Jesus Christ is God. There have been many misunderstandings of Christ’s divinity throughout the ages. The most common one today is the false belief that Jesus was a good man and a good teacher, but that He was not really God. Some even go so far as to state that Jesus never claimed to be God, but that was added to the narrative later.
Clearly, those understandings are wrong. There are two possibilities: Jesus is who he claimed to be, God incarnate, or else Jesus lied to us. I, for one, will not and cannot accept that Jesus lied about anything, most especially not about His nature or His role as our savior. It is not in the nature of the divine to lie.
So, we have the Woman at the Well meeting God singly and a crowd meeting God collectively. Both the individual and the group want the same thing: to be given what Christ has to offer, to have their spiritual needs met, to be shown the path to eternal life and to be given the aid needed to follow that path. And so the people of the Bible have the same needs and wants as we have today, both as individuals and collectively as a group.
And, so how do we have these needs met? By mighty deeds? By bringing about the Kingdom of God on earth?
No. We come to Jesus, for Our Lord Himself says that whoever, “comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
And how do we come to Jesus? We encounter Him in His Word, in Holy Scripture. We encounter Him in His Church — the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. We encounter Him in those around us, who, like ourselves, were made in the likeness and image of God and who through the dignity of their Christian baptism are made sons and daughters of God by adoption. We encounter Him in the Mass, and most especially in the Holy Eucharist.
The Holy Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is not metaphor; this is reality. I had my belief in the True Presence challenged one time by someone who thought that if I truly believed in transubstantiation – that the bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of Christ – that I would be unable to approach the consecrated host, much less consume it. That if I thought the Eucharist was really an encounter with God, I would be able to do nothing other than throw myself down before Him and tremble.
And this would be a reasonable argument, except it completely misunderstands both my nature and God’s. This argument assumes I come by force of will and take God. This assumption is false. It also assumes God does not desire our salvation. This assumption is also false.
The truth is I come sinful and sorrowful to receive Our Lord and desire to be made well. God, who desires my salvation, lifts me to Him and grants me the dignity to receive Him. I am truly not worthy to receive Him, but He needs only to say the word and I will be healed. It is not I who initiates Communion; I do not reach into heaven and take God. It is God who initiates Communion by coming down from heaven, searching for me. And searching for you. And searching for every man, woman, and child on this planet. We need only to come to Him, and we will never hunger. We need only to believe in Him, and we will never thirst.
This is also why we have perpetual Eucharistic Adoration here at Lourdes. The real question isn’t how can you approach God for communion; the real question is this: how can you stand not to be in His presence? Sure — the act of believing in Him can be done anywhere and at all times and it should be! But the act of coming to Him involves getting up and going to Him.
We, as Catholics, are required to attend Mass every week. To purposefully and intentionally miss Mass is a mortal sin. More importantly, though, we — as Catholics desiring salvation and eternal union with God — should desire to come to Mass every week so that we can encounter Our Lord in His Word and in the Holy Eucharist.
Shouldn’t we, for the same reason, all be spending at least an hour each week in Adoration? If we truly desire to spend eternity with God, would it not be wise to start with an hour a week now?
The Holy Eucharist is Christ present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. What greater gift could there possibly be from God, who desires our salvation? We need only to believe and to come to Him. We need only to answer His call, which is made in love and made with the desire for our salvation. We can come to Him collectively, which we do when we come to Mass and we can come to him singly, as we do in Adoration. We should be coming to Him both ways; the Bible, which is our guide in faith, tells us of fruitful encounters with Him by both individuals and groups… both formally and informally. Let us pray always for the gift of faith, so that we may hear His call, believe, and come to Him.