FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14B-16A | Psalm 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20 | 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 | John 6:51-58
Today is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. Our readings call us to consider the meaning of the Holy Eucharist in the life of the Church and in our own personal lives.
Fr. Homer Ocampo was invited to dinner by the Ramoses. During the meal he was astonished to hear Emily, the youngest in the family, state that a person must be very brave to go to church these days. “Why do you say that?” asked the priest. "Because,” she answered, “I heard Daddy tell Mommy last Sunday that there was a big shot in the pulpit, the choir murdered the hymn, and the organist drowned everybody”.
When we gather around the table as a family, we not only share food but also connect and find out what's going on with each other. We share stories and bring up issues that are important to the family as a whole. The more we engage, the closer and more connected we feel towards each other. The lesson from Deuteronomy reminds about Moses telling the people that their ancestors ate manna and understood that it was to show them that one does not live by bread alone, but by the Word of God. One of the most distinctive aspects of the Holy Eucharist is that it is a meal. At the Eucharistic meal, Jesus feeds us and encounters us. We hear the Word proclaimed in Scriptures and partake of Bread and Wine that is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. Jesus is the true Bread from heaven and the eternal Word made flesh—the full revelation of God. As the full presence of the risen Lord, the Word and Bread can bring us into a genuine and deep relationship with God.
Dianne liked to make sure she had meals always ready to cook. She made “freezer meals” ahead of time and carefully noted what they were in large clear letters. There was "CHICKEN PORK ADOBO", "PORK SINIGANG", "BEEF AFRITADA”, "MIXED VEGIES" or "PORK SISIG." But whenever she asked Charles, her husband, what he wanted for dinner he didn’t asked for those things. So, Dianne decided to stock the freezer with things he really liked. Now, if you look in her freezer, you'll see a whole new set of labels. You'll find dinners with neat, legible tags that say: "WHATEVER", "ANYTHING", and "IT'S ALL UP TO YOU".
We've all heard the old adage "you are what you eat," but have you ever thought how true that is? In the context that surround our second reading, the apostle Paul was concerned about Christians eating meat sacrificed to idols. Pagan neighbors would invite Christians in Corinth to banquets at temples where such meat was shared in a meal of communion. He warned that those who take part in pagan sacrifices are similarly joined to the demons to whom those banquets are offered. Saint Paul uses the Eucharist to drive home the nail of his exhortation even to their heads. We become what we eat. We don’t simply carry the Body of Christ or even share the Body of Christ; we become the Body of Christ. When we eat the bread and wine of the Eucharist we take into ourselves the very life of Christ. Through the Eucharistic food, Christ unites us to all the faithful in one body—not many bodies but one body—the Church.
Kirin and Bailom, cannibals from the Korowan tribe met one day. Kirin says, "You know, I just can't seem to get a tender missionary. They're very hard to chew. I've baked them, I've roasted them, I've stewed them, I've barbecued them, I've tried every sort of marinade. I just cannot seem to get them tender." Bailom asks, "What kind of missionary do you cook?" The other replied, "You know, the ones that hang out at that place at the bend of the river. They have those brown cloaks with a rope around the waist, black sandals and they're sort of bald on top with a funny ring of hair on their heads." "Ah, ha!" Kirin replies. "No wonder they're unpleasantly chewy...They are Franciscan fryers!"
Do Catholics really believe that we are eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood? Some say that sounds like cannibalism. In our Gospel, Jesus shocks the Jewish leaders with the assertion that he himself is the new manna, the bread of heaven given for God’s people to eat. Offensive words. And his listeners took offensive. However, Jesus makes no apologies for what he has said. Instead, he emphasized that, yes, he was speaking of his actual flesh and of real eating. In fact, in this passage he uses the very crude and graphic τρώγω (trogo) which means to gnaw, munch, or crunch—as when an animal is ripping apart its prey—to emphasize the reality of the “eating”. The Eucharist is life. The cannibal kills his victim; when we partake of Holy Communion, we eat and drink a living sacrifice. Jesus made the difference clear enough when He referred to Himself as the “Living Bread”. The Eucharist is the whole Christ. The cannibal eats part of his victim; in Holy Communion we eat and drink all of Jesus—his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. The Eucharist is not diminished. In cannibalism, the quantity of the flesh diminishes as it is being consumed; in Holy Communion, Jesus is not changed in the slightest; the communicant is the only person who is changed. The Holy Eucharist is the continuation of the Incarnation. By becoming man, the Son of God took on flesh—not in appearance only and not for just 33 earthly years, but in actuality and for all of eternity. We are not cannibals. We receive a living and glorious Lord who freely offers himself to us for our nourishment so that we can become the one we receive. He is very much alive and very desirous that we receive him.
O My Jesus,
I believe that you are present in the
Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,
and I desire to receive you into my soul.
I believe it because you have said it
and I'm ready to give my life to maintain this truth.
In your glory always, I pray. Amen.
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum