Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sunday 19B: "Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!" Viaticum is our Food for the greatest journey of all

During the cold war, as some of you may remember, we were in a space race with the Soviet Union and they beat us. But we recovered somewhat by later sending a satellite into orbit in 1958 to do a number of things such as send and receive data. What you may not know was that this first satellite established a very important fact for later space exploration: it demonstrated that the dangerous and life-threatening heat of the atmosphere could be controlled so that that the journey into space would not be too dangerous or too much for human beings to withstand.

The journey into space, as exciting as such an idea continues to be for many of us, always ends with a return to earth, as all things that go up must come down. There is another journey we are all able to undertake, however, without the aid of science and which must always be undertaken without any help on the part of other human beings. It is the journey beyond this world to heaven and a trip that we cannot even begin to undertake without the help of God. None of us can accomplish such a superhuman task on our own:

"Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!"

At the end of our lives, the most beautiful and most perfect preparation for the most important journey of our lives is to receive “viaticum”, a Latin word meaning "provisions for a journey," from via, or "way." The Eucharist is seen as the ideal food to strengthen a dying person for the journey from this world to life after death. God’s gift of himself in the Eucharist as our foretaste and promise of eternal life:

"Like all the sacraments the Anointing of the Sick is a liturgical and communal celebration, whether it takes place in the family home, a hospital or church, for a single sick person or a whole group of sick persons. It is very fitting to celebrate it within the Eucharist, the memorial of the Lord's Passover. If circumstances suggest it, the celebration of the sacrament can be preceded by the sacrament of Penance and followed by the sacrament of the Eucharist. As the sacrament of Christ's Passover the Eucharist should always be the last sacrament of the earthly journey, the 'viaticum' for 'passing over' to eternal life.” (CCC 1517)

But the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist is also, amazingly, our Daily Bread. We need to remain close to him every day of our life because the journey to God is itself a wonderful blessing and a source of joy, to know we are loved by Him who gives Himself completely as our Heavenly Food.

Tragically some remain aloof from reception of the Eucharist, sometimes even for long periods of time. This is a saddening but also dangerous reality because it places our eternal salvation, the blessed end of our life's journey, at stake.

Some do well to bring their children to Mass and to ensure that our little ones stay close to Christ in the Eucharist but, also, at the same time fail to make those changes in their lives, as possible, so that they too can receive the sacrament of Confession and return to regular reception of the Eucharist. Another effect of this all too common phenomenon is that we can end up discouraging perseverance in the Faith because, if by our example we seem to say that the Faith and its fullest practice is not good enough for our parents, how can we expect our children to believe it is good enough for them?

Although the Church sets a minimum of receiving as least once a year during the Easter Season, can real love do anything but seek greater and greater union with the one loved? Thus, frequent reception, at least every Sunday during Mass unless conscious of grave sin, is the Church's counsel.

God loves us here and now most fully in the Eucharist, a love which is foretaste and promise of the end for which we hope eternally with God.

"The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God's action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit." (CCC 1325)

Heaven is the journey's end we seek all our days and in all our ways. Say "yes" to heaven by saying "yes" to He who gives heaven by receiving Him worthily, attentively and devoutly in the Eucharist, now and always.

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