By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Healthy Spiritual Diet

Yesterday we celebrated the solemn feast of Corpus Christi. On this day we bow down in wonder and in awe before the great gift that Christ has left us of his own Body and Blood. In our Masses we reflected upon this mystery, and in many places not only in the Archdiocese but also throughout the world Eucharistic processions were held.

In the Gospel from Saint John (6:51-58), we heard again the words of Jesus: “My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” We are all aware of the strong emphasis given by our society today to being and staying healthy. This involves, among other things, paying attention to our diet. We hear the constant message that we should avoid fast foods and junk food and eat only that which is healthy, good for the body. Our feast day of Corpus Christi poses the question: how are we nourishing our souls? With true food or junk food?

The “true food” for the soul is Jesus. He is the Son of God made flesh, that is to say, He is the One sent from the Father to assume our human nature in order to share with us His own divine life and lead us home to the Father for eternity. He nourishes us with His teaching and with the knowledge of God’s unfailing love for us. Even more, He feeds us with Himself in the mystery of the Eucharist. At Mass simple gifts of bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. By the word of the Lord, spoken by the priest who acts in His person, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine are so completely changed that they are bread and wine no longer, but now truly our Lord’s Body and Blood. This is why Jesus speaks of Himself as the Bread of Life. He alone is the true bread, the true food that gives us life. And not only food for this earthly life but also, and above all, for eternal life: “This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:58)

And what about junk food? Sadly there is a lot of that around. There is abundant opportunity to feed on messages and images which are very unhealthy, even dangerous, for the spiritual life. The solemnity of Corpus Christi contains an important call to each of us to pay attention to this diet. What television shows are we watching? What magazines are we reading? What Internet sites are we surfing? Do they lead us away from the Lord? Do they tempt us to infidelity? Do they suggest ideas or implant images that are contrary to the teaching of the Gospel or to human dignity? If they do, they are junk food and should be discarded immediately.

Only one food truly satisfies and that is Jesus. This is why the Church constantly calls us to celebrate the Mass regularly, especially the Sunday Eucharist every week. By failing to do so we separate ourselves from the true food and true drink which is the Lord Himself. Not a good idea, to say the least.

We also honoured the Lord and gave witness to our Eucharistic faith by processions with the Blessed Sacrament. This is an important and necessary action today. In our time there is great want among our brothers and sisters that remains unfulfilled by what the world has on offer. There is hunger for clear meaning and direction in the midst of moral confusion; yearning for hope in the midst of despair; thirst for peace amid division and strife; longing for justice in the face of suffering. By means of the Eucharistic procession we announce to the world that the fulfilment of this craving is Jesus Christ, who makes himself the Bread of Life and gives himself to us as the only food and drink that can satisfy.

At the same time the procession with the Blessed Sacrament is a reminder to Christians that we are called each day to give this same witness by the sign of our transformed lives. When we allow ourselves to become what we receive at Mass, that is to say, when we allow ourselves to become more authentic disciples of the Lord, members of his Body, by our consuming of the Body and Blood of Christ, then our lives themselves become a type of “eucharistic procession” before others. Witness to the abiding real presence of the Lord is not limited to the solemn processions of Corpus Christi, as wonderful and beautiful as these are. It is a perpetual call, which we answer by the witness of transformed lives.