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How many of you have of a mother or a grandmother who insists on feeding you? When I visit my mom, she fusses at me for not eating enough. Believe me, after I clear my plate and then some, she still says that I haven’t eaten enough. So here is a simple, yet profound question I would like for us to ponder: Why do moms and maw-maws insist on feeding us until we burst? The simple answer some would say is because they are mamas, and mamas are supposed to feed. Perhaps a more nuanced answer would be that mamas love to feed because they can’t stand for their child going hungry.
Mother Teresa, who is a spiritual mother to many, said something very profound. “The world today is hungry not only for bread but hungry for love; hungry to be wanted, to be loved. They’re hungry to feel that presence of Christ. In many countries, people have everything except that presence, that understanding.” Mother Teresa was quick to say that what she and her sisters did was not just binding the wounds and feeding the poor. Their primary work, she said was to mediate an experience of forgiveness for those to whom they provided care. She boldly said that forgiveness was the greatest thing in the world and that forgiveness was the key to the survival of mankind. Without forgiveness, she said, reconciliation between God and man, or between man and man could not be possible.
Why does Jesus insist on feeding himself to us? We have been hearing him say the past few weeks that he is the Bread of Life and those who consume him will have eternal life. Jesus states even more explicitly in today’s Gospel, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”
So why does our very life, in fact our eternal life, depend on consuming Eucharist which is Jesus’ body and blood? Pope Francis explains, “In the Eucharist we experience the forgiveness of God and the call to forgive. We celebrate Eucharist not because we are worthy, but because we recognize our need for God’s mercy, incarnate in Jesus Christ. In the Eucharist, we renew the gift of the Body and Blood of Christ for the remission of sins, and our hearts are enlarged to receive and show mercy.”
We hunger for forgiveness in our lives because of the hurts we inflicted on others. We also hunger to forgive those who have hurt us. Material things and comforts can distract us briefly from this gnawing hunger in our souls, but not for long. Fractures and tensions within families, within communities, and within countries cannot be solved by money or technology. Forgiveness is the key to the survival of our family, our marriage, our country, and the entire mankind. Forgiveness leads to reconciliation, mutual respect and love for each other. Jesus wants to feed that greatest hunger by giving us himself who is Mercy.
The mercy that Jesus gives us in the Eucharist begins to enlarge our hearts to receive and show mercy. To actuate this process we need to grow in our love for Christ through prayer and sacrifice. Mother Teresa said, “People are hungry for the Word of God that will give peace, that will give unity, that will give joy. But you cannot give what you don’t have. That’s why it is necessary to deepen your life of prayer. Allow Jesus to take you, pray with you and through you.” She also said that to experience a life full of Christ, little by little, we need to let go of anything that we are holding onto out of selfishness. We begin to let go through small sacrifices of daily life--being patient on Sunshine Bridge (where traffic is horrendous), putting another person’s need ahead of our own, taking care of our family and neighbors. If God wishes more, he will put us in circumstances that demand or invite us to give more.
Do we truly want to satisfy our hunger for forgiveness? Ask Jesus today, as you receive Him, to make you a generous and cheerful giver of forgiveness.
-Fr. Paul Yi