Arise, eat, for you still have a great journey ahead of you.
1 Kings 19:7

Maybe that phrase needs a bit of context. It’s from the First Book of Kings in the Bible, and it's the story of Elijah. This prophet preached against the false worship of the god Baal, to which the Israelites had turned. King Ahab’s wife Jezebel was displeased with Elijah's preaching, because she’d brought the worship of this false god. She threatened to have him killed. Filled with fear, poor Elijah fled, and along the way, he collapsed from hunger and thirst. Then, while he was asleep, he heard a voice speaking the sentence above. Upon waking up, he found water and bread beside him. With these provisions, he was able to walk many days and save himself from the wicked queen.

Elijah's story is a very tough one. He had the mission to lead the chosen people back to the worship of the true God and to be faithful to his mission as a prophet. These were very difficult and somewhat discouraging tasks. But he obeyed God's voice, ate, drank, and was saved.

The Catholic Church has always seen this story about the miraculous intervention of God that saved Elijah as a symbol of the Eucharist.

The sacrament of the Eucharist is Bread for the journey of life. It is a defense that frees us from enemies and gives us strength to live out our vocation as Christians.

The words that allow us to see his Real Presence in the consecrated bread and wine in this sacrament were spoken by Jesus at the Last Supper with his disciples before his death and resurrection. During that meal, Jesus took bread, blessed it, and said, "This is my body which will be given up for you." Shortly afterward, he took a cup of wine and said, "This is my blood which will be shed for you."

Based on these words, faith teaches us that Jesus himself is present in the Eucharist. It's not a symbol or an analogy: it's a complete and full reality. Christ is there with his body, blood, soul, and divinity in every piece of bread and wine consecrated by the priest in the Mass.

When Jesus announced that he wanted to remain to be the food for our soul in the form of bread, many of his disciples found these words impossible to believe and very harsh. And they left him. Jesus never retracted or "qualified" what he said. The Eucharist is Jesus Himself. It’s not a symbol, like when we say that music is “food for the soul.” 

In some way, Elijah’s tremendous story is ours. Like the prophet, God has given us a mission that is, first, to walk according to his will to reach eternal happiness, and, second, to proclaim that the resurrected Christ is the only savior of humanity. We must struggle against the “Baals” within and without.

All the sacraments make God present among us, but the Eucharist does so in a very special way. It is moving to realize that God is ready to lower Himself to our level and become our spiritual food. Food is something fundamental for our life, so it’s understandable for God to choose this form of presence among us, in something as essential as food.

Today we are very concerned about the quality of the food we eat. We have an infinite variety of products for all tastes and preferences. Labels tell us every detail about everything we consume. We’ve classified and diversified our diets like never before, because we know that we need a balanced diet with all the necessary nutrients for the growth and health of our bodies. Well, the Eucharist has everything we need for the life of the spirit. We find Christ Himself in it, and we nourish ourselves with Him. Jesus gives himself to us in every Communion as spiritual food. He is the strength for our weakness.

If the prophet Elijah had known that the bread he received in the middle of the desert was a figure of the one that with the centuries would be the Body of that God whom he preached and who would be present in the Tabernacle, he might have died of happiness.

All of us, maintaining the purity of our soul, can receive the Body of Christ. In this way, we can walk, saving ourselves from all the Queen Jezebels we’ll encounter on our journey. We can regain the failing strength of our soul, rise from our weaknesses again and again, and carry on.

The Eucharist becomes a reality in the world in every sacrifice of the Mass. The Mass is the memorial of the passion and death of Jesus, and in it He descends to the altar and offers himself again to the Father to save us. Participating in the Mass means entering into that communion of love between the Father and the Son for a few moments. And that communion of love is the Holy Spirit. That's why this sacrifice is infinite: it is the saving action of the Trinity taking place on earth. 

For this reason, the Church, a good mother, tells us to attend Mass at least once a week, with the intention of listening to the Word of God and receiving the food of eternal life. "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life," Jesus said, and He continues to say it to each one of us. We need the Eucharist and Sunday Mass.

Also, the Eucharist is the Presence of God in our world and in our life. When the priest reserves the Most Blessed Sacrament (another name for the Eucharist) in the Tabernacle of the church, He remains there. God is close to us, and we can approach Him as many times as we want and speak to Him, ask Him for what we need, give thanks, and adore Him. Visiting Jesus in the tabernacle is a beautiful custom that has changed many lives.

You have started to visit the Blessed Sacrament every day… I am not surprised to hear you say, “I have come to love the sanctuary light madly.”
St. Josemaria, Furrow, no. 688

The book of the prophet Isaiah says, "Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Emmanuel." Emmanuel means "God with us." This is one of the names for Jesus, and the Eucharist is that God-with-us. He is not a distant God, up there in the stars, inaccessible in his greatness. God is near us. The Mass, the tabernacle, ultimately the Real Presence of Jesus is the great treasure of humanity. It is our treasure.

We conclude with a beautiful and simple prayer that Saint Josemaría recommended to grow our love for the Eucharist. He recited it many times a day, especially when he prepared to celebrate Holy Mass: "I wish, my Lord, to receive you with the purity, humility, and devotion with which your most holy Mother received you, and with the spirit and fervor of the saints."