For those who are new to the Catholic Church, as well as those who’ve been a part for decades, there are many mysteries of our faith we are unable to understand. This is especially true for me. I am currently going through RCIA classes for the third time. I decided the Church wasn’t for me twice, simply because I was unwilling to accept what I couldn’t comprehend.
That being said, I have never had an issue with the Eucharist. After attending private, Catholic school as a child, the Eucharist was one part of the mass that simply made sense. As an adult in my mid-thirties, a theology student, and someone who writes about Scripture, it’s now something I understand more than ever. I can’t wait until this Easter when I am finally able to receive communion.
At RCIA this week, our session was about the Eucharist and how it is one of the building blocks of the Catholic faith. While much of the video we watched was a refresher for me, I had never heard the topic explained as thorough as it was by Dr. Sri and his guests from the Augustine Institute. I was able to completely accept and digest the information with ease. However, as a writer and someone who wants to inspire Catholics to become more involved with the Bible, my mind started racing.
In chapter six of the Gospel of St. John, Jesus tells a crowd of his followers that he is the living bread that comes down from heaven. He mentions the manna eaten by the Israelites during the Exodus in the story so the people listening understand the significance of this “bread of life.” I can’t quite remember where, but I know I have heard a few other places this significance between the Eucharist and the manna. I’m sure as soon as I send this to the editor, the exact references will come to mind.
Learning From the Past
The story of God sending the manna to the Israelites journeying through the wilderness can be found in Exodus 16. The Israelites had fled from Egypt and were on their way to Mt. Sinai. It was roughly 45 days after they had been led out of captivity by Moses, and already the Israelites were complaining. Yes, they were free from Pharaoh and the slave labor, but they were hungry.
God decides to rain down bread for his people. However, five days a week, they are only to gather enough of the manna for one day. The bread is not to be stored up and saved, except for the sixth day. Only then are they allowed to gather more and then only enough for two days. God does this to see how well the Israelites will follow his instructions.
Although the previous two paragraphs weren’t explained in the video we watched during class, it’s where my mind went as soon as I heard the word “manna.” The bread was intended to be a daily supplement for God’s people. It required effort on their behalf to collect enough for themselves and their family. It didn’t matter what the weather was like. How tired they didn’t fit into the equation. Every day they had to take action in order to receive this gift from God.
Making Jesus a Priority
If so much emphasis is put into relating Jesus to the manna, why don’t we as the Church put as much effort into spending time with Jesus every day as the Israelites did gathering manna? I realize that there are many of us who go to mass and receive the Eucharist daily. However, there are many more who view going to church as something that has to be done just once a week. Hold on a second before you rush off to the comment section. Right now, I work a full-time job. I also spend 25 to 30 hours a week writing as a freelancer and working on a book that is getting ready to be published. I am a college student. I’m also a husband and a father who doesn’t contribute enough time and effort to my family. There are days during the week when going to mass to receive the Eucharist simply isn’t an option.
However, because I have a personal relationship with Jesus, I don’t have to be at mass to be with him. I am able to pray constantly throughout the day, regardless of the weather. Despite how tired I may be, I am able to spend time reading Scripture as soon as I wake up. Even if it’s only for five minutes before rushing off to work. I found the best way to start this habit is by reading the daily Mass readings while everyone’s still asleep and it’s quite. There are many apps and websites that make these readings available. I end every day by reading at least one chapter in whichever book in the Bible I’m reading at the time. I am currently about halfway through First Maccabees.
How Much Manna Do You Need?
Before you tell yourself that you already say a quick two-minute prayer followed by an Our Father and a Hail Mary every morning when waking up or before going to sleep, ask yourself one question. How much manna could you gather during that short period of time? Is it long enough to collect all the manna you need throughout an entire day? Are you even gathering enough for one good meal?
I’m not here to tell you how much time you need to be spending with God. The relationship you have with him is personal. Only you can answer that. I will tell you this. I have come up with more excuses than I can count to defend skipping time that should’ve been spent with God. My schedule didn’t become crazy just last week. Life has been this amazing for a few years now.
I have learned the hard way that on the morning I’m so exhausted I can’t imagine getting out of bed two minutes early to pray, that prayer provides me with more strength than the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. When I take the time to pray with that extra verse or two at night when I can barely keep my eyes open, I lay down to all the rest I need afterward. When I say the extra prayer while driving to work, I accomplish more in eight hours than I thought possible.
What does God Think?
I’ll leave you with this. I have discussed this topic with many Catholics. They say they never feel as close to Jesus as they do at mass. This Sunday, do yourself a favor. After receiving the Eucharist and returning to kneel in prayer and reflection, ask God if he thinks you are giving enough of your time to him? Be open to what he has to say. Better yet, beg him to let it bother you if you’re not spending enough time with him.
If you’re really lucky, God will have one of your children, a spouse, or a friend ask you why you spend so much time with your nose in that book or with those beads at your desk. Then you will have the perfect opportunity to share with them the most dangerous message ever written, the Gospel.