SFX Bulletin, 12 October 2014: At Baptism, all of us received a white garment and a candle. They are beautiful and meaningful symbols of our adoption as God’s children, “The white garment symbolizes that the person baptised has ‘put on Christ”, has risen with Christ. The candle, lit from the Easter candle, signifies that Christ has enlightened them and the baptised are ‘the light of the world” (cf. CCC1243).
As we mature, we must strive unceasingly to use the grace given us at baptism to become more and more like Christ – God’s perfect obedient Son. In doing what Christ did – revealing God’s mercy and saving help to others through words and deeds, we are preserving unstained the white garment of purity and holiness given us, making it a fitting “wedding garment” for the “messianic banquet” (v.12,2) - that reunion feast at the end of time which God has prepared for every single human being.
However, even now, at the Eucharistic meal of the Mass, we are getting a foretaste of this messianic banquet so lavishly and lovingly prepared with “rich food…fine wines….oxen and fattened cattle (Isa. 25:6; Mt.22:4). They symbolize the bread and wine changed or transubstantiated to become the Body and Blood of Christ, “It is a mystery which is constantly renewed in the Eucharist, the mystical banquet in which the Messiah delivers Himself as nourishment to the guests, to unite them to Him in a bond of love and life that is stronger than death.” (Pope St. John Paul II, Homily, Nov. 11, 2004).
Marvelling at Jesus’ sharing of his risen body with us in the Eucharist, St. Thomas Aquinas said, “…this change is not like natural changes, but is entirely supernatural, and effected by God’s power alone…” (Summa Theologiae, Part III, Q75, Art.4).
This new supernatural reality so awed the apostles that in writing of the “Our Father”, they understood Jesus’ “daily bread” to mean the Eucharist and not simply ordinary bread for earthly sustenance. Hence, they created a new word, “epiousios”, which is not found in the Greek language. “Epiousios” translates into “super-essential bread”, “bread necessary for existence” or “bread for the future” (CCC 2837).
Jesus’ gift of himself as our spiritual food is meant to help us do as he did in his earthly life – grow deeper into the Father’s love for all and answer His call to serve others to reveal His love. It is obvious to us all that we must not be like those invited guests who so ungratefully shunned the King’s invitation in preference for their “farm” and ‘business” (v.5). Rather, the Eucharist helps us in self-mastery – keeping all earthly things in subjection rather than becoming enslaved by them, “Self-mastery is a long and exacting work. One can never consider it acquired once and for all. It presupposes renewed effort at all stages of life” (CCC2342). St. Paul’s attitude towards earthly goods and needs is one we should emulate, “I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty. There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength” (Phi.4:12-13).
Today’s Liturgy of the Word reminds us to frequently check for stains on our baptismal wedding garment when we have failed in self-mastery and given in to our temptations. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we can restore this precious garment to its perfection by coming clean with God and letting Him cleanse and strengthen us through Jesus. Our confession must be backed up by a changed life manifested by deeds of love in keeping with the self-giving love of the Eucharist and not simply in words, “Eucharistic communion requires faith, but faith requires love; otherwise, even as faith, it is dead” and we will be cast out of the feast. (cf. Pope St. Gregory the Great). Let us persevere to be “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among whom we shine like lights in the world” (Phi. 2:15).