I’ve been a Catholic my whole life, but it’s only very recently that I’ve come to a deeper understanding of what it means to have faith as a Catholic mom. It’s because I have one serious problem: I like everything to go exactly the way I plan it to go. And when it doesn’t, I am afraid. When something unplanned comes along, I fear, I panic, I resist. And when none of those things work, I get down to business about how I’m going to take control and handle it all—a surprise pregnancy, an unwelcome diagnosis, or an unexpected loss.
What I have failed to do is the one thing truly necessary for the life of faith: “Lord, I trust in you, and so my heart is at peace.” I’ve had faith in my head, but fear in my heart. And that’s a painful place to be.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus, the mystery of the Eucharist. The biblical background for this mysterious “bread of heaven” takes us all the way back to Egypt, when God freed Israel from their slavery and accompanied them on the path to the Promised Land. At every obstacle, God asked them for one thing only—their confidence that he will come through for them. But they couldn’t give that level of trust. They faltered at every turn. They, too, were afraid.
It was in this window of time that the mysterious manna, the “bread from heaven,” was given to the Israelites. The manna was a supernatural bread. The Psalms speak of it as “the bread of the angels” (Ps 78). It was so sacred that the Israelites were instructed to keep it in the Tabernacle (Ex 16). It was the supernatural food that would sustain them from the Passover in Egypt until they arrived in the Promised Land, and then the manna ceased.
In the Eucharist, Christ himself becomes the true “bread of heaven.” He is the new manna, who sustains us from the moment he celebrated the Passover at the Last Supper, until we reach the new Promised Land. But he gives us something more.
In the Eucharist, he meets us with the intimacy of his real presence. He tells us: “I am here. I am really here! Do not be afraid. Do you not believe that I will always come through for you? Am I not already here with you?”
And instead of my fear, “How will I handle this?” (insert fear and panic), what he yearns for most is my faith. In reality, what seems like a crisis is only his invitation to choose faith over fear and to trade my pain for his peace.