“I am the bread of life.” ~ John 6:35
Living in NYC during the pandemic, I would stick my head out the window and cheer every night at 7 pm (along with the rest of Manhattan) as the hospital workers changed shifts and went home for the night. I walked through a deserted Times Square that looked more like the apocalypse than the center of art and culture. I wept as beloved restaurants closed their doors for good—transforming streets and avenues from once-bustling hotspots to vacant, empty storefronts—completely covered with graffiti and gang signs.
I watched as the city I know and love became unrecognizable: devoid of tourists, overrun by homeless men and women, and completely lacking the pulse and vibrancy that once made it such a great city.
And yet, here we are.
Seventeen long months later: New York City and I survived.
In comparison with most of the rest of the country, New York City has been incredibly cautious in reopening. And only since July 4 has the city returned to some recognizable state of normalcy. And so, it’s only been a few weeks now that I’ve been able to attend Mass again, in person.
I survived the pandemic watching Fr. Mike Schmitz every Sunday morning at my makeshift “home church.” In a studio apartment that meant lighting a candle underneath my painting of Mary and a Rosary from Fatima, my mother and I got when we walked the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage together in Spain.
Being physically back at Mass, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament — I have never appreciated the beauty and “in-the-flesh-ness” of my Catholic faith more than these last few Sundays, sitting in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
There was just something missing from my “at-home” worship experience, despite Fr. Mike’s bar-none incredible homilies. Despite the intentionality, I felt, making time for Jesus with daily virtual Mass throughout the pandemic. There was an incompleteness that left my worship feeling surface level and my heart yearning for something deeper.
The Bread of Life
It was missing Jesus, the Bread of Life.
I was reminded of this in today’s Gospel from John 6.
“…my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world…I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
Jesus, Bread of Life. Hope for the World. Who came down from heaven to bring life in abundance to you and me. Jesus, the Bridegroom, who loves you and me so much that He would give of Himself on the Cross, down to the very last drop of His blood.
The Lamb of God
A beautiful intimacy we get to experience every single Sunday at Mass when we eat His flesh and become one. I didn’t realize the intense hunger I had for that union with Him that was so glaringly absent for month after month as the pandemic raged on. An incredible gift of perfect love that I will never, ever take for granted ever again.
“Behold the Lamb of God. Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”
“Blessed are those” indeed.
The eyes of all look hopefully to you, and you give them their food in due season;
you open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. (From Today’s Responsorial Psalm 145)
Call to Action
After Mass today, take a few minutes in prayer to give thanks to the Lord for generously coming to us in the Blessed Sacrament.
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