St Ignatius of Loyola was a Spanish aristocrat who lived in the sixteenth century. He is best known for founding the Jesuit Order and giving the Catholic Church a distinct spirituality which is called now Ignatian spirituality. However there wouldn’t be the Jesuits or Ignatian spirituality if Ignatius didn’t change his ambitions and perspective. First he wanted to be famous and rich. That’s why he chose an army career. Unfortunately for his initial plans, but fortunately for his eternal salvation and for our spiritual benefit, he was seriously wounded. This year marks 500 years since that event. During his long recovery when out of boredom he read books on the lives of Saints he discovered how shallow and selfish his previous ambitions were. When he was able to walk again he went to the Shrine of Our Lady. At the entrance to the church he gave his fancy clothes to a beggar and he placed his sword on the altar of our Blessed Mother. He was in his late twenties but like a child he began learning a new life style which he summarised later in these words: ‘for the greater glory of God.’ I find it fascinating that the Jesuit order was the fruit of more than 10 years of Ignatius living as a committed lay Catholic who in all situations was asking himself: ‘What should I do for Christ?’
It is a most appropriate attitude if we recognise what Christ has done for us by his death and Resurrection. That’s why St Ignatius of Loyola comes to us in the mystery of the Communion of Saints, 500 hundred years after he had his eye opening moment to open our eyes to the Christianity which has nothing to do with a sense of entitlement but is all about living and loving out of gratitude for what God has done for us in his Son Jesus Christ.
It is the same God who led the People of Israel of out of Egypt. Then God gave them the food from heaven, manna. However there was much more heavenly bread to be given. Last week we heard of the multiplication of bread by Jesus. The miracle got the people who ate it excited. That’s why we see them in the Gospel this Sunday again. They searched for Jesus because as he pointed out they wanted more free food. However Jesus wasn’t going to please them with more free lunch handouts. The miracle from the last Sunday was not the goal but a preparation for different bread, truly heavenly. When the people in the Gospel, like Israelites from the Book of Exodus, wanted more free food Jesus said: ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never be thirsty.’
This new bread from heaven was to be baked in the oven of the cross and the tomb and to be ready for distribution from the Easter Sunday morning. This new miracle of the bread of life, Jesus Christ, has been happening for two thousand years now. This Eucharist is also the time when Jesus takes the bread and wine from us and through the power of the Holy Spirit performs a miracle of changing these gifts into his Body and Blood. This heavenly bread will sustain us for life eternal.
My Dear fellow Catholics! We keep coming to our churches to ask for this bread of life because every time we receive it the eternal life is sustained in us. Having this eternal life in us when we receive Jesus let us introduce into the small and big situations of life the question which was so dear to St Ignatius of Loyola: ‘What should I do for Christ?’ Then the Eucharist we celebrate will be truly a thanksgiving reaching out to all other days of the week.