He Who Eats This Bread Will Live For Ever

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Year A.
Deuteronomy 8:2-3. 14-16 – 1 Cor. 10:16-17 – John 6:51-58.

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi celebrates the Real Presence of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist is the sacrament of nourishment, the food for the journey of life, nourishing us on our pilgrimage through the wilderness of the world where no one can survive on his/her own. The sacrament supports us as a community of faith and aids us in our support of each other. The elements of the Holy Eucharist that we receive are no longer ordinary bread and ordinary wine. They are, rather, transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ. The sacred Host is Jesus Himself and contains the wholeness of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord. The consecrated wine that we receive from the chalice is the Precious Blood of Jesus. 

In the Holy Eucharist we have something infinitely greater than manna. The manna provided by Yahweh for the Israelites on their journey through the wilderness was a prefigurement of the Eucharist provided by Christ the Saviour. The manna and the Eucharist were provided by God as food for His people’s journeys. Manna served the temporal purpose of supporting the Israelites on their journey through the wilderness, while the Eucharist serves the enduring purpose of supporting us on our journey to eternity. Our Lord offers us sacramental nourishment to satisfy our spiritual hunger. The Eucharist is the physical means offered to us by Christ to strengthen us in blessed hope of eternal life in heaven, and to remind us that life doesn’t end here on earth. We must acknowledge Jesus as Lord, praise Him, and receive the ‘living bread come down from heaven’ in faith and thanksgiving. This is what ‘eucharist’ is all about (1Cor 14:16 ff; Col 1:12.)

The Eucharist challenges us to kneel down as sinners and to rise as saints. Here is a story for you of a young man who was converted by the power of the Eucharist. The young man dreamed of becoming a distinguished musician, adored by the world and richly rewarded in financial terms. He thought his big break had come when he was given the opportunity to play the organ in one of the churches in Paris. In a sense it had! Why? Because it was there that he encountered the immanent God. As the melodious tones of his organ playing lifted the hearts of everyone present in recollection and prayer, every head was bowed and the Eucharistic Lord blessed His children in their humble adoration. When the musician failed to bow in reverence before the Eucharistic Jesus, he sensed a mysterious and invisible force exerting its pressure upon him, bowing his head and humbling him to his knees. At that very moment, a miracle of grace was effected; he was won over for God. He knelt down an unbeliever; he rose up a Catholic. Not long afterwards, the water of Baptism was poured upon him, and exchanging his fashionable attire for the coarse serge of a monk’s habit, he bade an eternal farewell to the fleeting pleasures of the world. This is the power of the Eucharist: it beats down the sin of pride in each one of us, and raises us up in grace, plus it has the capacity to cleanse us of all venial sin.

In the gospel, the Jews take Jesus’ teaching literally and argue among themselves about cannibalism and violating Jewish dietary laws. They missed the point, as do we if we go down that route. Even today we are plagued by misconceptions about the Eucharist. The quick answer is that the Eucharist is the unbloody re-presentation of the sacrifice (cf. Ex 24:5-8; 1Cor 5:7) of the Cross. Jesus unequivocally asserts that the Eucharist is essential for eternal life, just as eating and drinking are essential for sustaining earthly life: ‘anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life’ (Jn 6:54). Receiving the Eucharist with faith disposes us to receive its spiritual and physical benefits.

We are to ‘chew on’ the Word (Ps 1:2; Rev 3:20) both literally and figuratively in the Eucharist and the Scriptures. Picture in your mind being really hungry, starving, and struggling for the lion’s share when food is put down in front of you. You would wolf it down – you would devour it after your experience of profound physical hunger. The verb ‘to eat’ in the gospel passage is trogon. Trogon means more than eating politely; it means to eat eagerly, to grasp at chunks and to munch with pleasure. The tense used implies continuity: we are not only to hunger intensely for the Holy Eucharist, but we are also never to stop participating in it. Indeed, consuming the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Lord brings us true physical and spiritual satisfaction, and enhances our communion with God (Jn 6:55-56). St. Paul talks about this communion in the Second Reading: the blessing cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ. Paul’s sense of communion is that we must look with faith not only upon the life-giving Bread/Host and Blessing Cup/Chalice but also with faith upon our brothers and sisters who with us form ‘one body’. Unless we recognize Christ in other people, we do not know Christ Whom we are receiving in the Holy Eucharist. May the Body and Blood of Christ lead us to everlasting life. Amen. God bless you.