“Communicating hope and trust in our time.”

- Pope Francis

The Eucharist as ‘baon’ (Food on the way)

1 Kings 19:4-8
John 6:41-51

By Fr. Euly Belizar, Jr.

I chuckle whenever I remember a remark from a fresh grad girl working in Makati: “I think those yuppies I work with are weird. They make so much fuss about looking good. But at lunch time my ‘baon’ is a hundred times tastier than theirs.” “Baon” or “balon” in Waray means food prepared, usually by the mother, ahead of an anticipated meal outside the house.

I thought baons were uniquely Pinoy. I was wrong. Even Elijah the prophet in our first reading was given ‘pabaon’ by God himself through an angel. As he was journeying to Mt Horeb, God’s mountain, while being pursued by the pagan queen Jezebel bent on killing him, he becomes weary of life itself. He asks God to take him. Instead God sends him food and drink. This reading was obviously chosen to introduce us to the Church’s teaching that the Eucharist, like Elijah’s food and drink, is our food on our pilgrim journey back to God.

In the Gospel Jesus says that he himself is the ‘bread from heaven’. Exactly what does he mean, we ask. Two things. One, it means Jesus’ teachings. In fact, he points out, “It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’ This coincides with the Liturgy of the Word where we listen to the Jesus’ teachings read and preached. Secondly, ‘Bread of Life, Bread from Heaven also means what we receive during Communion. “I myself am the living bread come down from heaven…the bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” Like it or not, but this corresponds to the Liturgy of the Eucharist where we receive Jesus’ flesh in Communion.

In other words, we have in the Mass our deepest longings and hungers addressed. Karl Barth once said that if anyone’s experience of the post-resurrection Jesus is by way of Jesus’ teaching only or by way of sacraments only, it is ‘truncated Christianity’. I met a doctor of medicine who left the Church and joined a sect. But she recently came back. I asked her why. She said: “I just missed the Eucharist. I missed Mama Mary and the saints too.” I believe she really missed a more complete experience of the Jesus mystery as the Bread of Life. It’s so much like being asked why we wouldn’t settle for reading letters or text messages of our loved ones. We would want to see and receive them “in the flesh”. Hence the Mass really takes us to the whole mystery of Jesus, that is, through his teaching being read and proclaimed, and through his living body at Communion.

In a court of law the witness is made to swear to tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. In the court of life Christians as witnesses must never be content with anyone or anything but “Christ, the whole Christ and nothing but Christ”.

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