“I AM the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, they shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore contended among themselves, saying, How is he able to give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Unless ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, ye shall have no life in you. Whosoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father, so he that eats me, he shall also live by me. This is the bread which came down from heaven; not as your fathers ate manna and are dead; he that eats of this bread shall live eternally” (John 51-58).
These sublimely beautiful and uplifting words were those of the Gospel for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Words that thrill and terrify us at the same time. Who would not wish to partake of this “living bread which came down from Heaven”? Who would not wish to “abide” close to the Heart of Jesus, and one day “live eternally” with Him in Heaven?
Although flawed and unworthy in our own eyes of such a great gift of heavenly grace, the Church gives us sure guidelines like these laid out by Msgr. Charles Pope here and here, that can help prepare our souls for the right conditions for reception of the Holy Sacrament – this “living bread”, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
At the start of the 19th century, the conditions placed upon receiving Holy Communion were overly rigid and almost impossible to regularly meet. This wasn’t according to the desires of the Church though, and Father Matthias quotes from the Council of Trent to show this, but due to the widespread influence of a Calvinistic stress on the depravity of man. However, Saint Pope Pius X clarified and defined what the needed conditions to receive the Eucharist frequently were, and encouraged frequent, even daily, Communion. Fr Matthias gives us these conditions from the sainted pope, stressing the need for preparation and thanksgiving, and closes with a quote from St. Therese, whose influence lead Pius X to promote frequent communion, about how to make a good preparation and thanksgiving for communion. (This holy Pope also brought down the age of children by five or six years, so that those as young as seven, still in their early innocence, who had received proper formation, could likewise participate of the Sacred Body of Christ).
Please listen to Fr Matthias’ audio homily below: