Bread of Life Readings from John 6.
Week One: Sunday Mass
This week we begin the Bread of Life readings from the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John. We begin with the multiplication of the loaves and fish and continue through Jesus’ teaching about the Bread of Life. Over these next five weeks, we are invited to ponder the mystery of the Eucharist, reflecting more deeply as each week progresses.
For Catholics, the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is a central part of our faith. Sunday Mass is our weekly encounter with our saving Lord in the Eucharist. Our participation at Sunday Mass is critical, since we are fed by Jesus. Actually, we are doubly fed: nourished by the Word and the teachings of Jesus, and strengthened by the Body and Blood of Christ in Communion.
Sometimes our other responsibilities may make it difficult to attend Sunday Mass. However, it is worth the effort to make time for Mass. I encourage us all to make Mass on Sunday or Saturday evening a greater priority in our lives. Even when traveling, it is good and noble to find a Catholic church to attend Mass, even planning ahead by finding the locations and times of local Masses. Our Lord fills a need that each of us has in our hearts for our God. Here is where we encounter most profoundly our God who loves us beyond limit.
Week Two: Daily Masses
We continue through John 6 this week as Jesus challenges us not to look for ordinary bread that perishes, but for the living bread that gives everlasting life. As Catholics, we see the Eucharist as the fulfillment of this promise of Our Lord. In the Eucharist, we find life. Not only the promise of eternal life, but also the spiritual bread that nourishes our souls even on a daily basis.
Last week, we were reminded of the importance of making the Lord’s Day a priority by regularly attending Sunday Mass. This week, let us consider the value of attending even daily Masses during the week. We are not limited only to spending an hour with Jesus once a week on Sunday. Every day we can listen to God’s Word, and be fed by his Body and Blood.
Daily Masses are offered at 7 and 8 AM, Monday through Friday and at 8 AM on Saturday. Daily Masses take place in the original church/daily Mass chapel. These Masses often last about a half hour, and are simpler than Sunday Mass. The more frequently we attend daily Mass, the easier it is to enter into a spirit of prayer, letting our restless hearts rest in the Lord. For this reason, daily Masses have a very prayerful and tranquil atmosphere. There is also a spirit of fraternity among those who attend daily Mass, as parishioners recognize and get to know each other.
Starting the day with daily Mass also has an effect on the entire day. By getting up a little early and making prayer to God the first order of the day, we can give the rest of the day to the Lord. Many often find that the peace of the Lord can help us manage the other activities we must face with a better spirit. Please join us for daily Mass, even if it is only occasionally or one day a week. The spiritual benefit is well worth the sacrifice of our time.
Week Three: Holy Days of Obligation
Over the past two weeks, we have considered the importance of coming to Sunday Mass, as well as the benefit of making time even for Daily Masses during the week. This week, we consider Holy Days of Obligation. While we are used to the routines of coming to Mass on the weekend, there are a handful of days for which participation at Mass is also required for all Catholics.
In the United States, the Holy Days of Obligation are Mary, Mother of God on January 1, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15, All Saints on November 1, Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on December 8, and the Nativity of Our Lord (Christmas) on December 25. In some places, the Ascension of Our Lord is observed on Ascension Thursday. In the State of Illinois/Province of Chicago, the Ascension is transferred to Sunday.
Some Holy Days of Obligation are dispensed when they fall on a Monday or a Saturday because of the close proximity to Sunday. In the United States, note that December 8 and December 25 are not dispensed on Mondays and Saturdays. In fact, later this year, we will observe the Holy Day for the Immaculate Conception on Saturday, December 8.
These Holy Days remind us of some of the most important mysteries of our Faith. By taking time out of our busy week to celebrate these Holy Days, we allow the Lord to consecrate our time, by raising our minds in prayer from worldly to spiritual realities. Participating in the Eucharist nourishes us on these special days as we are fed by the Word of God and the Body of Christ.
Take time to celebrate these days, since we have these feast days to remind us of the great blessings that God has given us. As we might all remember to celebrate the birthday or anniversary of an important loved one, we remember these Holy Days as important moments in the lives of our spiritual family. In these sacred celebrations, we rejoice with Our Lord and the Blessed Mother.
In our parish, we also observe special solemnities on the Feast of St. Thomas (July 3) and the Anniversary of the Dedication of our Parish Church (October 6). These are not Holy Days of Obligation, but they are special moments for us as a local parish community. You may have your own feast days to celebrate if you were named after a saint, or if you have a special devotion to a particular saint. Let us all use these feast days to remind us of our calling to holiness and our destiny to join with all the angels and saints in Heaven.
Week Four: Private Prayer before the Eucharist
Over the past three weeks, we have reflected on the importance of the Eucharist is our faith life as Catholics. We have considered the importance of attending Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation as the foundation of our relationship with Our Lord and with the Church. We have also considered the value of attending daily Mass to strengthen our connection to our Savior.
This week, consider the value of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. The custom of making a pious visit to the church during the day is a noble one. This practice involves taking a break during the day to visit the church and praying quietly before the Lord in the Tabernacle. Making a visit during the day is a way to break up the other worldly duties and responsibilities that we have to raise our mind and heart to the Lord in prayer. In this time with Jesus, we bring our thoughts and desires, our needs and worries. Time spent contemplating Heaven gives us better perspective as we continue with the duties of our day.
We spend time with the Lord when we join in the public prayer of the Church which is the Mass. In this moment, we encounter Jesus who offers his flesh and blood as true food and drink. However, we are all encouraged to spend time with the Lord in our own private prayer. In this quiet time given to the Lord, our communion with Jesus is strengthened. In this way, our private prayer nourishes our public prayer at the celebration of Mass, just as the graces we receive at Mass also support our private prayer. We are reminded in prayer that “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” and that we have life in the Father and in the Son.
We can and should pray wherever we happen to be, and it is laudable to pray in our homes. Yet, there is something special about coming before the Blessed Sacrament to offer our prayers. For example, a person can always receive a partial indulgence by praying the rosary, but a plenary indulgence by praying the rosary in a church before the Blessed Sacrament. St. Thomas has an excellent tradition of observing a day of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament on First Fridays. Thank you to all those who take time during their day to spend even a half hour in prayer. This is an outstanding tradition that I encourage for all our parishioners.
Our parish church at St. Thomas is open every weekday from the morning Masses until the end of the business day. During the school year, the church remains open until 4 PM. On weekends, the church is open from the morning Masses until the last Mass or confessions of the day. Please consider taking some time when you are near St. Thomas to stop in and make a pious visit for prayer.
Week Five: Confession and Communion
This is the final Sunday in which we read from the sixth chapter of John. Although we reached the greatest development of the Bread of Life in last weekend’s Gospel, Jesus calls the disciples to put their full trust in him in this Sunday’s Gospel, since Jesus is the one who has the words of eternal life.
Over the past four weekends, we have considered (1) the importance of regularly and consistently attending Sunday Mass, or the Saturday Vigil; (2) the value and advantage of attending daily Masses to grow in our faith; (3) the value of Holy Days of Obligation in which we celebrate some of the most important mysteries of our faith; (4) the benefit of making a visit to the church to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, since our private prayer strengthens our experience of the public prayer of the Mass.
This weekend, let us consider the important connection between the Sacrament of Penance and the Sacrament of the Eucharist. It is true that the Eucharist is a profound gift that has a value beyond our capacity to put into words. In this sense, none of us can claim to be worthy to receive the Eucharist on our own. In fact, we take the words of the Centurion to ourselves when we proclaim, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you under my roof.” Rather, the Eucharist is given to us as a pure gift by Our Lord who abounds with love for us. Jesus is the one who “says the word and our souls shall be healed.”
When we humbly come before the Lord, it still remains essential that we be in a state of grace in order to receive Him. If we are conscious of grave sins, we are obliged to make a good confession before receiving Communion. Through the Sacrament of Penance, we can receive the forgiveness necessary to receive Communion and all the graces that come with it. Even if we have not committed any mortal sins, confession still remains a good practice to prepare ourselves to receive the Eucharist more fruitfully. Confession helps us to turn more away from sin, even venial, and to make a better home for Jesus in our hearts. Therefore, it is encouraged that we all take advantage of the opportunity to confess our sins from time to time.
We offer confessions on Saturday afternoons both before and after the vigil Mass. Guides to confession are available in the daily Mass chapel near the confessionals. These resources are also available on the Mass and Confession page of our parish website. It would be a blessing to find that we need to add additional times for confession to accommodate the desire for this wonderful sacrament. We remember that Jesus desires to seek out and bring back the stray sheep. We give Him this opportunity when we ask his forgiveness in confession. A fruit of making a good confession is finding ourselves more at peace with God. This is also a moment of happiness, since “there is more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine who have no need of repentance.”