First Sunday in Lent
With the Gospel Acclamation today, the faithful hear this verse, Matthew 4:4, “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” We take this to mean earthly bread, our sustenance that fuels us for our daily tasks. However, last year, many of us went without heavenly bread for months at a time. Maybe you can’t receive the Eucharist now because you don’t have access to in-person Mass, or you are avoiding the church building due to health concerns.
I went without the Bread of Heaven for three and a half months in 2020, and one of the first times I received the Eucharist after churches re-opened in New York, was at my daughter’s First Holy Communion. Not only was I receiving Jesus’ Body and Blood again, I was finally receiving this gift again in communion with my Church family and sharing this precious gift with my young daughter.
Anticipation of the Banquet
We anticipated this special moment for weeks, carefully preparing ourselves. I’m not simply talking about reviewing sacramental prep lessons, rehearsing hand placement for receiving the Body of Christ, ironing her dress, and fluffing her veil. Our preparation included the Sacrament of Penance. Our family, away for the Eucharist for months, hungering as we watched Mass on TV and recited the “Prayer for Spiritual Communion” in unison in our living room, approached the healing sacrament together the day before the first in-person Mass. Not only had we been away from the Body of Christ for months, we had been lacking His sacrament of mercy. Anticipating this joyful reunion, I was determined that the souls of each of my family members would be clean and whole tabernacles for Jesus, present in the Holy Eucharist.
That was at the end of June. Today, I have the opportunity to receive Jesus every day. However, I’ve noticed that I’m not always as attentive to my mental and spiritual state as I was when I was in the desert last year.
Lent is an Invitation Renewed
This Lent, Jesus is offering us a new opportunity to come back to him with our whole hearts. This season invites us to stop, reassess, and reconnect with the one who loves us and sacrificed all for us. We are still living lives of daily uncertainty. Everything is not back to normal. However, just as the angels ministered to Jesus in the desert, God sends His angels to tend to us in hard times (Ps. 91:11). Do we trust this? Do we recognize that our Lord, like us in every way but sin, understands hardship, dryness, uncertainty (Heb. 4:15)?
When we are surrounded by the wild beasts of illness, instability, financial hardship, and even the Bread of Life is inaccessible to us, the Word of God “is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Let us reflect on the scripture and permit it to draw us closer to Jesus, the Word become flesh (John 1: 14), our sustainer, redeemer, and brother.
How can you be more intentional in your preparation to receive the Eucharist?